Over the past three years, CEGEPs in Quebec have seen their student numbers decline. Last year, the drop in enrollment rates was 1.1%. There is nothing exciting for the president of the Fédération des cégeps, but it is enough to worry him.
This year, enrollment rates rose again, with a jump of 1.4%. “This is the good news,” notes Bernard Tremblay in an editorial interview with sun. “ But he warns that it will be difficult in the next few years. We’re talking about 4% increases. This means an additional 7,000 students, which is a large number for CEGEP. »
Mr Tremblay thinks it is time for the Legault government to invest “in concrete”, before the college network hits a wall.
“We have huge infrastructure needs,” he insists. But when we tell the government, we are told that we are not alone, and that there are demands elsewhere. And I say that education is above all. »
Bernard Tremblay says students at some university institutions are already “overcrowded”. “Even if the CEGEPs make great efforts, when the managers give me a real visit, not a ‘nice’ visit, I say to myself, ‘Oh, it’s urgent.’”
Some CEGEPs can get by by renting private space thanks to the new budget envelope, but in many cases, college administrators have few options. “It works in downtown Montreal, but in Saint-Jerome or Levis, it’s not really the same.”
Without massive investment, the cégeps fears thousands of Quebecers will be “abandoned”, due to a lack of space. For example, some of the programs that are accessible today could become subject to quotas, as Bernard Tremblay suggests.
“How will we be able to tell the young man that we will not have space for him to study?”
— Bernard Tremblay, President of the Cegibs Federation
Distance learning courses ‘not a panacea’
Despite all the experience gained during the pandemic, the president of the Cégeps federation refuses to see online courses as a solution to the lack of space in university institutions.
He agrees that “remote training can meet certain needs.” But it would be wrong to think of it as the solution to everything,” warns Bertrand Tremblay. He believes that home study loses the “essence” of CEGEP.
“Distance training provides agility, but it will never be a panacea. We must reassure our students and teachers: it is not true that we will start distance learning to provide the infrastructure,” stresses the president of the federation.
“We saw that during the pandemic, distance learning is not what our students want.”
— Bernard Tremblay, President of the Cegibs Federation
However, distance learning courses are a great tool for professionals looking to improve their skills or reorient themselves while getting paid, says Mr. Tremblay. But for our youth, this is not the way of the future. »
The Cégeps union believes that the lack of investment “in concrete” is explained, among other things, by a procedure burdened with government requirements. Bernard Tremblay explains that CEGEPs must set a “real hurdle” in hopes of seeing their organization expand.
Major projects must first be submitted by CEGEPs, and then selected by the Ministry from the pool of applications. “I call it Loto-Infrastructures, because you never know what projects will be taken,” explains Bernard Tremblay.
And when Quebec chooses a project, the long delay imposed by heavy administrative steps in an inflationary context causes the bills to explode beyond initial estimates.
which adds steps. and deadlines.
Therefore, CEGEPs focus on small jobs, rather than on major projects. “We tell architects that if they come up with a $50 million project, we don’t want to hear about it. We’re at a level of sophistication that it’s completely useless.”
“I have general managers who tell me they won’t be able to finish a project before they retire like they did in two years early in their careers,” Mr. Tremblay gives an example.
However, Cégeps refuses to blame the government for the lack of investment in the college network.
“When we look at the curve of our allocations, we cannot conclude that the government is not responding,” insists Bernard Tremblay. But in terms of infrastructure, even if I understand that we need new hospitals and primary and secondary schools, we should not forget the enormous needs that will come our way. »
A worried eye on public sector negotiations
In anticipation of a drop that unions have already promised will be hot, Bernard Tremblay is concerned about the potential for pathway disruptions in CEGEPs. However, he believes that renegotiating collective agreements in the public sector could allow Quebec to perform well in the context of a labor shortage.
He believes that “these will be critical negotiations for the future of the public sector.” Especially with regard to their ability to recruit, while private companies are aggressive in their search for workers.
CEGEPs, who see technical masters leaving for attractive business offers, think it is time to “bring the model back to the table” to provide them with more flexibility, just to keep their talents. “Because now it no longer works.”
Minister Pascal Dery “listens”
Cégeps notes that it is on good terms with the new Minister of Higher Education, Pascal Dery. Bernard Tremblay praises his “wonderful listening” in a context of great demand.
“We have a motivated and dynamic minister who wants to get things done,” he said. We have very good communication with her and her team. »
The Union also expressed its happiness with the legislative government’s decision to divide the Ministries of Education and Higher Education. He is confident that the choice “wasn’t obvious” to him, but it seems to be paying off. “We have a team dedicated to CEGEPs and universities. They can only be positive.”
Still, Tremblay agrees, files, even those without any impact on the budget, “move slowly” through the government machine. “We know Ms. Derry represents us well, but in the end, these are government options.”
CEGEPs to make the French language alive
In the face of studies revealing a direct relationship between knowledge of French and success in college, the Fédération des cégeps believes it is time for Quebecers to launch a major campaign to connect young Quebecers with their language.
Theatre, dance, music and literature: “Why not use CEGEPs as venues for extensive touring? suggests Bernard Tremblay.” Something easily accessible with today’s artists. »
It also suggests that the literary prize for middle school students be given more visibility. “We currently have one set per CEGEP. My dream is that we have 25.
In addition to advancing the French language, such a program would allow young Quebecers to reinvest in their CEGEPs post-pandemic. “CEGEPs are more than just classrooms. These are places to share and promote our language.”
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