Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
STUDENT SERVICES: A JOINT RESPONSIBILITY


Summary

 

Student services are intended to promote the continuing progress of students in school. The educational success of some students depends on these services, and their elimination or reduction can have serious repercussions, especially in schools where poverty is more prevalent. The Conseil turned its attention to this issue because the current cutbacks in education and the resulting reorganization of services pose a threat to the quality and availability of student services. The Conseil's aim was to describe the current issues in this area and to suggest ways in which the Ministère de l'Éducation, school boards and schools could collaborate to ensure that student services are maintained. The school's mission of teaching, socializing and qualifying students should be accomplished without compromising the principle of providing equal opportunities for all. Without the support provided by student services, however, there can be no hope of equal opportunities for a large number of students. It is for this reason that the Conseil felt it was important to examine the subject.

Chapter One of the Conseil's brief focuses on the needs of elementary school children. The Conseil stresses the fact that young people's needs today are diverse, intense and become evident at an earlier age than they once did. The available indicators reveal that the situation is the same everywhere, with serious consequences for youth in terms of learning and social adjustment.The data also show that children in disadvantaged areas experience the most difficulties.

The Conseil analyzes the source of these difficulties and examines changes in the situation of the family. The family structure has undergone profound transformations that have affected the overall development and identity of children. As a result, children arrive at school with different experiences that must be taken into account in their learning. Cultural and linguistic diversity is another factor. To take one example, the number of students whose mother tongue is not French, English or one of the aboriginal languages rose from 47 502 in 1982-83 to 93 029 in 1994-95. And this trend continues. Finally, poverty is increasing and with it, socio-economic disparities. In Canada, the poverty rate among children has reached 20.5 percent, or approximately 1.4 million children, a 16-year high. This fact alone is cause for alarm.

The first chapter concludes by stressing that schools cannot limit themselves to educational services, but must also offer services that support students who, for whatever reason, cannot keep up with the majority.

Chapter Two begins by distinguishing between two groups of student services. The first group addresses special needs, which are usually provided by nonteaching professionals. Examples include speech therapy, psychology, psychoeducation, special education, health and social services and remedial education. The second group of student services consists of activities aimed at creating a sense of community. Student participation in school life; rights and responsibilities education; sports, cultural and social activities; and remediation and supervision constitute learning experiences for all students. Chapter Two describes the situation of this second group of services.

No hard data is available for establishing a quantitative profile of those student services that enhance the school environment. Estimates vary with the school. It seems, however, that the provision of these services is relatively precarious. It depends on the initiative of teachers, the school administration or others. They are funded by all sorts of activities, including sales of T-shirts, chocolate and wrapping paper. The activities offered to students vary with the affluence of the school and the success of its fund-raising campaigns. The Conseil has observed that even though the situation cannot be described precisely, student services and the extracurricular activities they include, clearly fall short of students' needs.

The second chapter concludes by establishing a link between student services and young people's needs. In a society where many deplore the disintegration of the social fabric and the weakening of traditional family ties, the opening up of the school to the community and the development of partnerships are excellent ways of supporting students and their families. Such activities help to enrich the school environment. The Conseil feels that not only should these activities be offered, but that they should be developed more extensively, even in a period of cutbacks, in light of the pressures on the family and society.

Chapter Three describes the organization of special services, which are directed at 10 to 15 percent of the elementary school population. The chapter begins with a look at the historical development of these services, whose importance was recognized in the Parent Report of 1964. Of course, special services have changed a great deal in the course of the last two decades.

We are currently witnessing a fragmentation of services and, in some cases, a real decrease. More and more schools are being forced to make difficult choices, without guidelines or recourse. Schools are looking for solutions to the problem of how best to allocate the resources granted for student services.

Data show that there is a trend to "deprofessionalizing" student services. In absolute terms there was an increase in resources in 1997-98 over 1996-97, but this increase can be explained by the addition of resources for daycare employees, student supervisors and special education technicians. Overall, there has been a decrease in resources for professional staff. Thus, the data reveal an increase in support staff and a decrease in professional staff. This phenomenon warrants investigation in order to understand the effect on services for students.

In this chapter, the Conseil also raises the issue of professional collaboration between teaching staff and nonteaching staff and that of ongoing training for special services personnel. It concludes with an analysis of the situation of two employment categories: remedial teachers and special education technicians.

Chapter Four develops the idea of the need to reorganize student services. The way in which services are provided warrants examination, as does the coordination of these services between the departments of Education, Health and Social Services, Youth Protection, Justice, and Children and the Family. It is imperative that these sectors of government intervention be decompartmentalized to eliminate overlapping of services and to better meet children's needs. The integration of services is thus a goal that should be pursued.

Chapter Four goes on to describe a few cases of integration of services in the United States and elsewhere in Canada, highlighting what is relevant to the Québec experience. The chapter concludes by mentioning obstacles to the integration of services and sets three challenges for schools:

- to create conditions that will favour collaboration among individuals and groups within the school;

- to ensure that professional personnel work together in multidisciplinary teams;

- to address the issue of jurisdiction with respect to the various government departments concerned.

Chapter Five suggests avenues for action and presents the Conseil's recommendations. This chapter reviews the main issues and makes recommendations to the parties concerned.

The Role of Student Services in the School's Mission

The Conseil recommends to the Minister of Education that the student services provided for in the basic school regulations be truly accessible and free of charge to all students who need them, especially in view of the principle of equal opportunity for educational success.

Funding Student Services

The Conseil recommends to the Minister of Education that student services be funded in proportion to real needs and that the possibility of introducing a budget allocation specifically for student services be studied.

The Conseil also recommends that school boards allocate resources by geographic sector rather than by school, taking into account such variables as advantaged versus disadvantaged communities, the proportion of immigrant students, the number of students with disabilities, and the graduation rate.

Finally, the Conseil recommends that school boards make student services pertaining to teaching available to all students.

The Organization of Student Services and the Establishment of Integrated Services

The Conseil recommends to school boards and schools that they begin favouring the establishment of integrated services, in collaboration with partners in health and social services, culture, municipalities and community organizations.

To help foster joint action by individuals in the field, the Conseil proposes three courses of action. The first, to be spearheaded by the Minister of Education, consists in establishing a task force to study ways of integrating student services in order to support school boards. The second concerns local communities. Each school or group of schools, in collaboration with the school board, should establish a local body to coordinate the services offered by individuals and organizations in the community. The third course of action involves school administrations and governing boards. The Conseil recommends that they make student services an integral part of their educational projects and include an account of them in their annual reports. These measures should help establish recognition of student services.

The Internal Organization of Student Services

The Conseil would like to sensitize all those who work with students to the need to rethink the way they provide student services. In the case of school boards, the Conseil recommends that resources be organized around a stable core group and that individuals working in the schools view the boundaries of their respective professional activities with a certain flexibility.

Finally, the Conseil recommends that the Minister extend the coverage of student services to future early childhood development centres.

Evaluation of Experiences in Schools

The Conseil considers it important to encourage school boards to ensure that there is a follow-up on the involvement of their personnel in student services and to evaluate its impact. The Conseil feels that the Minister of Education could take the initiative of inviting subsidizing government agencies and universities to support the evaluation of the effect of student services on educational success.

Training of Personnel

The Conseil encourages the universities to review their initial training programs for teaching and nonteaching professionals, and invites professional associations to promote the importance of continuing education to their members. Finally, the schools are encouraged to provide joint professional development opportunities for personnel who provide student services.

Document complet - in French (PDF)

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