Conseil supérieur de l'éducation

1999-2000 Annual Report on the State and Needs of Education


At a time when Québec’s education system, along with the curriculum at the elementary, secondary and college levels, is undergoing a major transformation, when Québec’s universities are being asked to be accountable for their teaching and research mission, and when adult education is taking on a new importance given the new focus on lifelong learning, an unprecedented technological revolution is also bringing about far-reaching changes in contemporary society and forcing the education community to review its teaching methods and learning tools.

Given the emergence and widespread use of new technologies — multimedia and networked information and communication technologies — and the evolution foreseen in the education system, the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation has decided to focus on the integration of new technologies with teaching and learning at all levels in the Québec education system. In this regard, the five chapters of the report deal successively with the current situation, teaching and learning, basic and continuing teacher training, the conditions for successful integration, and the social and institutional issues raised by the integration of new technologies in the field of education. In the conclusion, the Conseil makes recommendations to the Minister of Education and, for the education community as a whole, highlights some of the possibilities for action identified at various points in the report. The appendixes complete the approach taken by the Conseil, in particular by giving examples of institutions where steps have been taken to integrate new technologies in education.

New technologies and education: An overview of the current situation

The education system cannot remain outside the technological (r)evolution that is affecting the whole of society. To integrate new technologies in the field of education for teaching and learning purposes, the educational community must have access to high-quality equipment and networks, since quality is important if the potential of digital technology and network connections, in terms of the information, communication and collaboration they allow, is to be fully realized. The Conseil, while stressing the fact that the acquisition of computer hardware is only the first, albeit essential, step towards the integration of technology into the teaching process, summarizes the progress made in Québec in equipping educational institutions with the necessary computing environment.

The research and surveys carried out by the Conseil show that there is increasing acceptance in Québec for applications based on the new technologies, even if the rate of progress achieved seems slower than in the rest of North America. However, when compared to Europe, and in particular to the French-speaking world, Québec’s relative position is somewhat better. The penetration of new technologies across Québec society, in homes and throughout the education system, and Québec’s widely recognized technological expertise, make it possible to envisage Québec acting as a leader in the integration of the new technologies into education and continuing education.

It is important to realize that a number of initiatives at the governmental, ministerial and institutional levels in recent years have demonstrated the clear interest of education stakeholders and partners in the integration of new technologies in the field of education. Unfortunately, though, no policy statement, strategic plan or plan of action exists at the Ministère de l’Éducation to support and guide the related developments, decision and funding choices within the education system.

Learning and teaching differently

The Conseil has examined a trend that currently informs the education systems of the most highly developed countries, namely, an interest in a paradigm shift away from an approach based on teaching strategies toward an approach based more on learning strategies. New technologies constitute a key element, since they can help transform certain educational practices and make it possible to learn and teach differently, in order to improve academic and educational success rates. The new technologies should, however, be considered for what they can offer the world of education—a tool for teaching and learning, whose potential depends on the ability of education stakeholders to use them in a manner conducive to the attainment of the objectives set for each level of education.

Its examination of this question leads the Conseil to formulate several warnings concerning the integration of new technologies into education. For example, the Conseil stresses the need to differentiate between information and knowledge, underlining the importance of a thorough basic education that allows students to make judicious, enlightened use of the information available. The Conseil also draws the attention of the education community to the almost total lack of research findings demonstrating the effectiveness of new technologies in improving educational success rates. However, many authors and educators have observed improved behaviour, attitudes and abilities among school, college and university students exposed to teaching and learning situations involving the use of new technologies; the benefits include increased motivation and autonomy, closer collaboration, more sustained effort and more personalized teacher support. From another point of view, considering that the computer industry stands to gain from the growing use of computers in the education sector, the Conseil invites political and institutional decision makers to remember that the decisions and choices they make concerning the use of technology must target, first and foremost, the realization of the educational mission.

Achieving the educational mission must be the principal goal of any attempt to integrate new technologies into education. Integration must be carried out in a manner consistent with the curriculum and programs of study, must be part of a defined institutional project, must target the attainment of educational objectives and must be subject to evaluation. The underlying values of the education system are today more relevant than ever before, and must be a deciding element in the integration of new technologies; such values include self-respect and respect for others, intellectual integrity, ethics, discernment, mutual assistance and collaboration. Whether the focus is on distance learning, on-line learning, networked collaborative learning, or the technical environment required to integrate new technologies with teaching practices, a single educational concern remains paramount: students must be allowed to realize their full potential in the areas of knowledge, social development and occupational qualifications, not only during their time at school but throughout their lives.

The Conseil examines briefly the question of how new technologies are used with certain specific categories of students, such as students with physical or intellectual impairments. The use of new technologies with these students appears to the Conseil to meet the need for equity, and also to offer new hope for improving the quality of life, the learning potential and, eventually, the social and professional integration of a category of students too often marginalized.

Teacher training: Mastering teaching methods, handling technology

The Conseil considers that no educational reform or change is possible without the support and commitment of the teaching profession, whatever the level of education involved. Teaching staff will play a crucial role in integrating new technologies in the classroom, and in ensuring that pedagogy and technology join forces to improve teaching and learning.

It is important to ensure that the basic and continuing training received by teachers at all levels of the education system give teachers an opportunity, once they have mastered the technology concerned, to use the new tools to enrich and diversify their teaching strategies and improve educational success rates. Although it will be essential for teachers to master the new technological tools, the goal is not to transform them into computer specialists, but rather to provide them all with the basic information they need to integrate new technologies with teaching and learning, in a user-friendly, stimulating and challenging way.

The Conseil examines the role that faculties of education can and must play in providing basic and continuing teaching training for elementary and secondary school teachers that includes the integration of new technologies with teaching practices. Despite the changes made to the teacher training programs in 1994, the type of teacher training currently dispensed seems to be poorly suited to the objectives of the current reform and the possibilities offered by new technologies. In addition, although it would be preferable that work/study practicums offer prospective teachers an opportunity to see how integration works in the field, there are clearly not enough teachers with the required expertise to meet the needs of all faculties of education and student teachers. Given this situation, faculties of education will have to play a key role in preparing future graduates for the integration of new technologies with teaching and learning practices.

With regard to the ongoing training of active teachers at all levels of education, the report examines the objectives generally pursued by a wide range of training providers. Unfortunately, the focus does not appear to be on preparing educational professionals for the use of technological resources in teaching and learning; instruction often consists of purely technical training, limited, in many cases, to mastery of software applications. The Conseil considers that, to be effective, continuing training must include the supervision and monitoring of teachers as they begin to integrate new technologies into their teaching. The Conseil also places great importance on the training and support teachers receive from their peers, and on the development of virtual communities for the sharing of expertise among teachers.

The successful integration of new technologies

At no point in the report does the Conseil underestimate the scope and impact of the change brought about by the use of new technologies in education. It draws attention to the fact that integration must not be limited to the use of new, complex and efficient tools to perform tasks formerly accomplished with different means. The full potential of the new tools must be directed towards supporting, in a more effective, diversified and personalized way, the learning objectives of each level of education or training sector.

Like any other major change, the successful integration of new technologies in education depends on two key factors: the training of the teaching staff involved, and the ability of the education system as a whole, and that of each stakeholder, to take the necessary time to adopt and master the technical and pedagogical aspects required for an enlightened deployment of new technologies in teaching and learning.

Besides these basic conditions, the Conseil identifies other conditions linked to the constraints imposed by technology and the related pedagogical and institutional requirements. It stresses the importance of informing and raising awareness among all stakeholders about the need to use the new technologies for teaching and learning purposes, to improve access to the new tools in terms of material resources and appropriate content to meet educational needs, to provide training for all those involved in education — and not just teaching staff — to ensure that all work together to place the new technologies at the service of teaching and learning, and to supervise and support teaching staff on an ongoing basis in connection with both pedagogical and technical concerns.

The Conseil highlights the importance for the Government, in the first instance, but also institutional decision makers, to take responsibility for guiding the changes caused by the introduction of new technologies in the field of education, to ensure that the best possible choices are made at all educational levels and in all educational institutions.

Major social and institutional issues

New technologies in the field of education must be considered primarily as powerful tools to assist teaching and learning. However, since technology is never neutral, according to several thinkers and philosophers, the education community and decision makers must recognize certain issues if they are to ensure that the use of new technologies in the field of education is beneficial for all in social, cultural and economic terms.

The issues include the affirmation of Québec’s specificity, the need to ensure equity and respect for ethics in the use of new technologies in the field of education, the protection or preparation of students to deal with certain types of content available through a medium such as the Internet, the development of a network culture, a focus on joint action, the development of a shared vision of the ultimate objectives of technological integration in teaching and learning, and the establishment of partnerships.

The Conseil highlights, for each educational level or sector, the issues and challenges raised by the integration of new technologies in the field of education. The issues and challenges are not necessarily specific to a given level, but the Conseil considers that they are particularly significant at the level it indicates. It focuses, in particular, on the following issues: at the elementary level, preparing young people to use technology in an enlightened manner; at the secondary level, setting up mechanisms or strategies to deal with the limitations of the school environment and making a determined effort to integrate technology; at the college level, respecting and continuing the program-based approach; at the university level, ensuring that Québec universities play a prominent role and enjoy a promising future in the world of distance learning, on-line and e-learning; in vocational and technical education, working more closely with partners in the workplace, using network communication and the new possibilities of interactive video communication; in continuing education, using the flexibility of on-line learning to face the competition of other on-line products, either through distance education or e-learning.

Conclusion and recommendations

The Conseil pursues a single objective throughout the report: that of ensuring that new technologies, in particular the technologies that rely on the Internet for information, communication and collaboration, are introduced into the field of education in a way that reflects the primary mission of the education system — namely, to educate — and supports the type of learning prescribed for each educational level and sector.

Its examination of the situation and the results of its consultation allow it to identify a number of postulates that it considers to be important guidelines for the introduction of new technologies: information should never be confused with knowledge; only the pedagogical creativity of teachers can ensure that available technologies, whatever their intrinsic power, are used in a optimal way in teaching and learning; time constitutes a major obstacle to the integration of new technologies into education and it exerts considerable pressure on the organization and allocation of teaching time at all educational levels; with network communication, on-line and e-learning, major changes will be necessary in the way educational institutions are organized, operate and receive funding.

In view of the rapid pace of technological change and the scope of the changes necessitated by the implementation of new technologies in education, the Conseil has taken the unprecedented step of making recommendations to the Minister of Education under four main headings: clear directions, concrete actions, needs-oriented training, and targeted research. In connection with each recommendation, the Conseil makes suggestions for action or intervention by the education community to contribute to the successful implementation of new technologies in the field of education.

First recommendation

First, the Conseil considers that there is an urgent need for Québec, like comparable societies around the world, to adopt an official public policy on the integration of new technologies into education in order to allow the entire education community to benefit and take guidance from clear policy directions.

The Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education:

  • prepare and make public — after consulting those concerned by the integration of technologies, especially information and communications technologies, into the field of education — a policy statement concerning new technologies in the field of education, in order to present clearly the policy directions and expectations of the Québec government

  • establish a body covering the entire education system to advise the Minister on new technologies and to oversee the introduction of new technologies in the field of education, with responsibility for:

-  advising the Minister on the steps to be taken to carry out, support and successfully attain the integration of new technologies throughout the education system, paying particular attention to the pedagogical and economic aspects of integration

-  designing, implementing and monitoring the strategic action plan for the policy on the integration of new technologies in education, and seeing that the plan is included in the strategic planning of the Ministère de l’Éducation

-  ensuring joint action and coordination to stay abreast of new developments throughout the education system in connection with the evolution of new technologies and their application in the field of education for teaching, learning and management purposes

-  working in collaboration with various government authorities in any activity relating to the integration of new technologies into education

-  monitoring research trends and results concerning the integration of new technologies with teaching practices, to ensure that they are taken into account and applied in the education community at the appropriate time — in particular by disseminating information to key players — and identifying avenues for future research and sources of research funding

Second recommendation

Second, the Conseil believes that their is an urgent need for Québec to develop high-quality multimedia content linked to the curriculum objectives and programs of study of the Québec education system. The Ministère de l’Éducation cannot act alone in this area, given the human and financial resources required.

The Conseil recommends that a government plan be prepared concerning the development of multimedia content linked to curricula and programs of study in Québec. An inter-ministerial body, existing or specially created, within which the Minister of Education would play a leading role in terms of educational content, could take responsibility for:

  • ensuring concerted action by multidisciplinary teams (bringing together specialists in multimedia, pedagogy and subject content), and consolidation and development of partnerships between educational institutions and the private sector to create and disseminate multimedia content (via the Internet or on CD-ROM) reflecting the specific nature of the elementary, secondary (youth and adult sector) and higher education curricula in Québec

  • facilitating, with the government departments concerned, the international marketing of multimedia educational products created in Québec and making them available at competitive prices within Québec

  • ensuring cooperation among the various departments and levels of government to ensure the establishment of programs to develop multimedia products and the funding of personnel — in particular through the liberation of teachers to work on content design — and of the work involved.
Third recommendation

Third, the Conseil believes that the role played by teachers in the integration of new technologies with teaching and learning practices and the need to provide them with appropriate training will be crucial in the success of the whole process. Many stakeholders are concerned, and they must all work to ensure that teachers throughout the education system are able confidently and pertinently to undertake the process of integrating new technologies with their teaching practices.

The Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education:

  • follow up on the recommendations and orientations proposed by the Comité d’orientation de la formation du personnel enseignant (cofpe) concerning changes to be made to teacher training programs for elementary and secondary school teachers in order to allow future teachers to integrate new technologies with their teaching practices. These recommendations are listed in the brief issued by the cofpe, Consolidating, Adjusting and Improving Teacher Training, and repeated in Chapter 3 of this report; they focus on the need to provide a sound introduction to new technologies, integrate new technologies into course content and training programs, and conduct more research on new technologies

  • urge universities to strengthen the requirements governing teacher training by integrating new technologies into the course content and the teaching strategies of the academic staff concerned, and establishing an appropriate teaching environment

-   in this regard, require universities, in collaboration with their faculties of education, to establish specific mechanisms or measures to train and support education teaching staff in integrating new technologies into their teaching and learning strategies, providing thereby a model for teachers attending basic and continuing training; projects could be submitted to the Ministère de l’Éducation to receive appropriate funding, with the stipulation that the universities be accountable to the Minister of Education for the actions taken and results obtained

  • promote and support the efforts made throughout the education system to train and provide professional development for teaching staff concerning the integration of new technologies, and provide financial support for innovative, structuring projects for the integration of new technologies into teaching and learning approaches

  • encourage school boards and governing boards to ensure that the teachers they hire and those already employed, are fully aware of the need to integrate new technologies with teaching practices, to support teachers in this matter – whether they engage in training, skills upgrading or specific projects –, and to evaluate the degree to which teaching staff effectively integrate new technologies into their teaching practices

  • support actions within the education community, in conjunction with educational institutions, to acquire and renew computer equipment for all teachers at all educational levels.

Fourth recommendation

At this point in time, the Conseil also makes a fourth and final recommendation concerning the funding of research projects for the integration of new technologies in the field of education.

The Conseil recommends that the Minister of Education extend the Programme d’Action concertée of the Fonds pour la formation de chercheurs et l’aide à la recherche (fcar) concerning the use of technology in education, and broaden its scope to include the entire education system and not only the elementary and secondary levels.

Last, the Conseil recalls that many questions remain to be debated, new avenues remain to be explored, and partnerships must be established to enable the new technologies to be used to help Québec’s educational institutions pursue their mission and to ensure the continuing influence of Québec in the field of education at the international level and within the French-speaking world.

Document complet - in French (PDF)
Communiqué de presse - in French


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