When we want we can! (not always)
For schools, the current situation is presented as a challenge. In addition to the logistical and technical pitfalls to overcome for teachers and stakeholders, we demand flexibility, adaptation, patience and open-mindedness to students. However, we seem to overlook the fact that not everyone is able to face this challenge in the same way.
C ‘is using all the resources at their disposal and with the best intentions that colleges and universities are trying to set up a system which, if not perfect, could help meet the target of the Minister of Education and Higher Education to continue the session at a distance. One cannot criticize the efforts and inventiveness of those who seek to make this possible. However, this situation highlights a serious problem of perpetuating social inequalities as well as an age-old and unjust way of looking at the realities of students. It is the very principle of going ahead with a solution which, as we already know, will leave several students behind which poses a problem.
Some students do not have at their disposal the technological and computer equipment necessary for distance learning. This seems difficult to believe since these objects are taken for granted today as they are part of our daily landscape, but this is very true. Many students do not have a computer, while some only have access to the family computer shared by all family members, sometimes including other students. In addition, some have access to only a poor Internet connection. To ensure the right to education for all, post-secondary institutions have certainly made provision for the loan of computers. On the one hand, we can wonder if the quantities would be sufficient to meet the needs and, on the other hand, with this new (and logical) ministerial ban on access to schools, how would the loan be possible? In addition to all the manuals, books, notebooks and tools that cannot be recovered. Those who do not have the equipment will have to do without?
For others, it is the situation at home that makes the effective continuation of a remote session unlikely. Let us think of the members of the large families who, in this pandemic, are confined (and not always in large houses). Let us also think of students who must continue to work in essential services or those who already have, in normal times and with support, difficulties in school. Finally, let us think of those who live in a precarious or violent family environment from which it is impossible, at this moment, to escape. What about those whose reality corresponds to several of these situations?
The adage so often repeated in the face of the tests encountered “If you want, you can!” seems to find its limits in these and other circumstances. The creativity and good intentions of CEGEPs and universities cannot change this reality: distance education is not possible for all students due to socioeconomic, family and academic reasons. Too often it is the will and motivation of the students that are called into question, as if all problems could be resolved with optimism.
The possibility – offered as a solution – of abandoning the session or courses by receiving the mention “incomplete” will only accentuate the inequalities already existing within the student population, because one can easily imagine that those who will have to resort to this option are the same who do not have the opportunity to evolve in a situation conducive to their success under these conditions.
All students in Quebec have the right to quality education. This head-first dive towards the technological solution will leave young people behind, even with the best intentions of those who strive to make the machine run and the great will – too often forgotten – of students to succeed. “It’s going to be fine …”, we repeat these days. No, it will not go so well for those who will have to drop courses and resume them as well as for those who will have all the trouble in the world to really progress in the advancement of their knowledge in front of a screen (if they have one).