The Exodus of Skilled Professionals in Quebec’s Public Schools: A Growing Concern

The Exodus of Skilled Professionals in Quebec’s Public Schools: A Growing Concern

In the borough of Parc-Extension as well as all over Quebec, public schools are facing a silent yet significant crisis. This issue extends beyond the realm of teachers to encompass a range of professionals crucial to the educational framework. According to recent local media reports, there is a troubling trend: a growing number of specialized professionals, such as special education technicians, psychologists, and speech therapists, are departing the public school system. This exodus is not merely about unfilled positions; it’s causing a domino effect that jeopardizes the academic achievement of students, especially those requiring special educational support.

As of October 2022, the number of positions waiting to be filled in these specialized roles surged from 1076 to 1996 within a year, highlighting a growing crisis. The Ministry of Education cautions that these figures are subject to change and advises careful interpretation. However, the upward trend is unmistakable and worrying.

Jacques Landry, president of the Federation of Quebec Education Professionals (FPPE-CSQ), points out the vicious cycle at play: fewer professionals on the ground make the work less appealing, accelerating the shortage. He criticizes the Legault government’s approach, describing it as “willful blindness” to a system in continuous decline. According to Landry, the lack of adequate tools and support is forcing many to abandon the public sector.

This problem isn’t confined to a few schools; it’s a province-wide issue. Kathleen, the president of the Montreal Association of School Establishment Directors (AMDES), echoes the concern. These professionals, essential in classrooms and playgrounds, are increasingly difficult to retain. She points out that the annual reevaluation of budget allocations by Quebec prevents schools from offering many permanent positions, leading to a sense of instability among the professionals.

Nicolas Prévost, president of the Quebec Federation of Educational Establishment Directors (FQDE), observes a trend of these skilled workers turning to the private sector, attracted by better employment conditions. He highlights that the most immediate victims of this professional desertion are students with special needs, who face longer waiting times for essential evaluations and services.

The Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission (CDPDJ) in 2018 reported that students with disabilities or learning difficulties represent a significant portion of the public school network. Yet, there’s a glaring mismatch between the number of students and the available specialized staff. The situation has reached a point where even the Ombudsman, in 2022, recommended establishing a minimum threshold of services for students.

Professional bodies are raising alarms too. Dr. Christine Grou, president of the Order of Psychologists of Quebec, and Paul-André Gallant, president of the Order of Speech Therapists and Audiologists of Quebec, emphasize the critical shortage of professionals in their respective fields. They note that the scarcity of such professionals is hindering the provision of adequate support and mental health services to students.

The numbers paint a stark picture: in 2013, there were 966 psychologists for 864,491 students in Quebec’s public schools. Ten years later, despite an increase in student numbers, the psychologist count has dropped to 787. This decline in professional support staff is not just about numbers; it’s about a generation of students at risk of being underserved, potentially impacting their future prospects.