The difficult challenge of advising the state

A few weeks before his departure in a retrospective interview with The pressoutgoing President of the Supreme Education Council, Maryse Lassonde, wants the government to listen more to the advice of its own experts

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Hugo Pilon Larose

Hugo Pilon Larose
The press

(Quebec) The topic caused quite a stir in the spring. The Legault government now gives newcomers six months to learn French. After that, the state (with some exceptions) will stop communicating with them in English. But is six months enough?

The outgoing President of the Supreme Education Council, Maryse Lassonde, doesn’t think so. In fact, she’s sure of it, and she’s let the government know. Vain.

At the head of a body born out of the Quiet Revolution and created by Quebec in 1964 following the submission of the report of the Parents’ Commission on Education, she even warned the minister responsible for reforming Bill 101, Simon Jolin-Barrette, that this deadline was too short.

To learn in franking courses, in the best of all possible worlds, it’s a year. And that’s a minimum.

Maryse Lassonde, Outgoing President of the Supreme Education Council

Here, after Mme Lassonde, a specific example where the council – whose job it is to advise (and influence) government on the state and needs of education – failed to get its message across. “In our opinion, I realize that it can take several years before it can enter into the operationalization of the machine [gouvernementale] ‘ she remarks.

She wants her successor to develop more links with ministries other than those responsible for education and higher education.

known problems

Maryse Lassonde, a specialist in child neuropsychology and professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal, is leaving her post as head of the Supreme Education Council with a certainty: the government needs to make the system more flexible and address the consequences of segregating secondary school students sooner rather than later between the “normal” public, the enriched public and the private network. Issues that could fuel the debate a few months before the next elections.

“Studies have shown that only 15% of those who come from the ‘normal’ public go to university. The proportion is 51% [pour les finissants] the affluent public and over 60% in the private sector. […] It is not normal. We have to tackle this problem so that there are equal opportunities,” she denounces.

Mme Lassonde also finds that high school commutes are too rigid for children. “From the 3rde You decide on a subject and your career choice is determined by it. But you’re too young for that. It really needs more flexibility at all levels,” she regrets.

What the pandemic has taught us

CEO in the midst of a pandemic, Lassonde, in turn, says COVID-19 “has exacerbated all the problems that were already there [dans le réseau de l’éducation] and that we have denounced for several years”.

“Whether it’s socioeconomic inequalities reflected in the education system, private schools have quickly turned around with tablets and distance learning, while public schools have taken longer to ‘adapt’, she illustrates.

Maryse Lassonde was also surprised by the scale of the mental health crisis in Quebec’s schools. “The numbers were outrageous. [Des] Elementary school children suffering from distress, anxiety, children taking three medications in elementary school, antidepressants, anxiolytics or others. »

For me it was a shock.

Maryse Lassonde, on student mental health numbers

“I can’t blame Quebec’s education system alone. It’s a global fact. What happened here happened elsewhere. But we want to make the system more resilient, more resilient, because it could happen again. It’s important to identify the weak points and fix them as quickly as possible,” says Lassonde.

A departure against a worrying background

As she leaves the Board of Education, Maryse Lassonde worries about the rise of groups that challenge the principles of inclusion, equity and diversity in the university world. This spring, the case of a Canadian research chair position where the vacancy notice stipulated that only applicants from Aboriginal diversity, with a disability and women would be interviewed drew several criticisms.

“Do you know that currently in Quebec only a third of university professors are women? Current and for the same age group. It’s not a question of generation. So there is still a problem,” recalls Mme Lassonde.

“Not because we don’t want men anymore. The men, they will still be there. Two-thirds of them are in the universities there,” she adds.

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