(Quebec) After health, it is the turn of education to have its reform. With his bill to be tabled on Thursday, the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, will give himself more powers in the management of the school network. And, surprise, he will do a long-requested move to ground education decisions and teaching methods in research-based evidence: create a national institute of excellence in education.

However, the unions have always opposed this measure which, according to them, would encroach on the professional autonomy of teachers. A confrontation is brewing.

This new organization will be the counterpart for the school network of the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS), an organization whose important role for professionals and the entire health network has been better known to the general public with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bernard Drainville’s bill will not have the magnitude of the vast reform of his health colleague, Christian Dubé, with its 300 pages and its thousand articles. But he will shake the columns of the temple in his own way, as Prime Minister François Legault telegraphed in an interview with La Presse in March.

Bernard Drainville will give himself new powers with his bill. It will itself appoint – or dismiss if necessary – the directors general of the school service centers and will ask them to report to it.

François Legault had justified this change in governance during the interview. In school service centers, he pointed out, “there are things that are done [by the directors general] with the agreement of the board of directors that are not necessarily our business.”

In the health sector, “with Christian Dubé and [before him] Danielle McCann, we changed the CEOs of CISSS and CIUSSS at our request. We do not have that power over the general managers of the service centers, ”he lamented.

The Prime Minister then defended himself from wanting to “centralize everything”. “There must be decisions that remain decentralized, but you still have to have the power to act when it does not work. »

In the school network, in light of Mr. Legault’s statements, we have been preparing for the worst for the past few weeks. Managers research job security provisions. It is feared that the government will put the current directors general on waivers and then ask them to apply for the new positions appointed by the minister himself. This is what Gaétan Barrette had done in the Couillard government with the executives of the health network. In Quebec, there is no indication that the Legault government is going that far. But the situation illustrates the extent to which Quebec’s intentions are causing a stir in the network.

One of the major sources of frustration in Quebec is the inability to obtain data on the performance of the network, the effectiveness of services, or even an accurate portrait of student success. Numerous reports have demonstrated the absence of statistics at the Ministry on several yet fundamental subjects. The new powers will now allow the Minister to require the necessary information from school service centres.

Bernard Drainville intends to standardize the collection of data in the network and to oblige the sending of the results to the Ministry.

Quebec has other aims with the change in governance. We deplore the fact that the measures to grant more autonomy to schools, adopted under the Roberge reform, are not implemented because of the resistance or practices of certain school service centres.

School principals, for example, complain that “resource allocation committees” — tasked with redistributing money according to the needs of each school in a school service center — still do not exist in some areas. Or that in half of the school service centres, all the information on their income and expenses is not sent to the committee, which prevents it from making informed decisions.

Bernard Drainville will go ahead with the creation of a national institute of excellence in education, as it exists elsewhere in Canada and Europe. This measure will help improve student success, the government believes. It has long been claimed by many experts – one of the best known is Égide Royer, from Laval University.

Basically, the institute would identify good practices in education based on scientific research – in teaching and governance, for example – and then recommend them to the government and the network for implementation.

This is also the mandate of INESSS in the health sector. Dr. Luc Boileau led this organization before becoming national director of public health last year.

Minister of Education at the end of the reign of Philippe Couillard, Sébastien Proulx had formed a working group to create a national institute of excellence in education, but there was no follow-up.

This group was led by the professor specializing in education Martin Maltais – who was subsequently deputy chief of staff to Jean-François Roberge –, a teacher from the Laurentians, Hélène Lecavalier, and the director general of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board, Dominic Bertrand. The latter became in April “strategic adviser” to the Ministry of Education. Former rector Claude Corbo and veteran sociologist Guy Rocher, a member of the Parent commission, had contributed to the work of the committee.

His report was made public in 2018, an election year. The committee insisted that the institute be “independent and autonomous”. “We also propose an institute that does not have the mandate to standardize practices or to position itself ideologically with regard to the multiple approaches in education or the modes of school management”, can we read.

The institute should have three “overarching goals”, again according to the committee:

– draw up the most exhaustive and objective synthesis possible of the state of scientific knowledge available, in Quebec and elsewhere, on any question concerning educational success and ensure scientific monitoring;

– ensure the transfer of the results of scientific research to the school network, decision-makers and the public;

– Contribute to the training and support of stakeholders – such as teachers – with regard to best educational practices, and to evaluate their effects.

The teachers’ unions, the CSQ and the FAE, opposed the creation of such an institute. It is a “superfluous structure” that would undermine teachers’ professional autonomy and fail to address the “real problems experienced” by their members, they say.

In Quebec, other ongoing reflections are likely to cringe in the union ranks. Consideration is being given to implementing more advanced continuing education for teachers and raising the eligibility criteria for faculties of education, particularly with regard to proficiency in French. Quebec wants to set up a fast track to obtain the teaching certificate, intended for holders of a bachelor’s degree in other disciplines so that they are legally qualified to teach.

For Bernard Drainville, the tabling of his reform on Thursday is also an opportunity to be talked about for something other than the decline on the promise of a third highway link between Quebec and Lévis, his riding.