It must be said, since the start of the pandemic, education has been a subject constantly in the hot seat. Several dissenting voices are raised to denounce the failures of the system and of questionable government decision-making. Clearly, no one was prepared for this unprecedented situation.
Unfortunately, the current situation has only exacerbated many pre-existing problems, such as the shortage of teachers. Various factors have contributed to this, including population growth increasing school enrollment, the establishment of 4-year-old kindergartens and the inability of the education system to attract enough new candidates. The profession is far from attractive, given the increasing constant workload, job insecurity and the daily emotional overload associated with managing heterogeneous groups of students. In this regard, it is hardly surprising that the Minister’s recent appeal to retired teachers has not had the desired success. In addition, growing psychological distress is leading some of them to dropping out of work, especially at the start and end of their career.
The image of the candle burning at both ends is almost too trivial to illustrate the current situation of teachers. For a long time now, we have rather the impression of witnessing an uncontrollable blaze which is devastating the institution. We can see its failure caused by a lack of political and social vision. Good intentions and electoral promises spanning four-year terms have lined the path to hell since they were not organized with a view to continuity. The main victims are our children, our teachers and school workers. The time has passed for observations. Several researchers in education sciences and members of the school community have been denouncing the situation in unison for more than 20 years. The rapid implementation of realistic means to absorb this shortage becomes a question of survival, and it is urgent.
It must be said, giving salary bonuses to teachers is certainly an attractive and motivating strategy for some, but it is ephemeral and quickly withers away from the magnitude of the task. To succeed in developing well-being at work, fostering perseverance and increasing the retention rate in teaching, they must be provided with the necessary resources to practice the profession in conditions favorable to safeguarding their mental health.
To achieve this, could we invest financially in the establishment of a provincial professional integration program, under the aegis of the Carrefour national d ‘insertion professionnelle en teaching (CNIPE)? This organization, which has existed for 16 years, already helps certain school service centers to develop resources that meet the specific needs of the community. Note that this shortage opens the door to the hiring of unqualified teachers, which seems one of the only viable short-term solutions for the moment. This is why it is necessary more than ever to invest in the support of novice teachers, whatever their status, to support school teams and guarantee quality education for students.
The urgency is not to find scapegoats, but to support the work of teachers in order to solidify the foundations of this system which is in the process of crumbling dangerously. This initiative could also be one more step to promote this suffering profession.
Nancy Goyette, Ph. D.,
professor and researcher at
Department of Educational Sciences, UQTR.