Posted at 5:00 am
Elementary students at the Université du Québec à Rimouski will no longer have to pass a math test to graduate. The test will be replaced by a compulsory subject of mathematics.
In Quebec, all aspiring teachers undergo a standardized French test to obtain their certificate, but not a math test.
However, the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR) required an entrance test for math for high school candidates in preschool education and in primary education.
Passing the test was not a condition of admission, but it was mandatory to enter the last year of the fourth year of training. Students who did not pass the 75% pass mark on their first attempt had to take an extracurricular math course and retake the test annually until they passed.
As many failures in math as in French
Like other previous universities, UQAR is changing its approach. In 2021, the pass rate on the math entrance test was 72%, according to data provided by the establishment. “It’s very comparable to passing the French diagnostic test,” says Virginie Martel, director of UQAR’s infant and primary education module.
More than half of the students who failed the exam the first time passed it on the second attempt.
In short, less than 5% of students dropped out of the boat without ever having passed the math test (and very often also the French test).
Anxiety, which is growing among young people, may have been detrimental to student performance, notes Ms.jo Hammer. One thing is for sure, “it’s a shame that a student who is known to be very good doesn’t get to the end by an administrative rule to take the exam.”
Starting next year, the exam will be replaced by a 45-hour mathematics course that will be compulsory for everyone, in addition to the four courses in didactics of training mathematics.
The goal? “Foster a positive relationship with mathematical knowledge and the importance of teaching it in primary school,” explains Ms.jo Hammer.
“We continue to strongly support the idea of developing math skills, but we want to do it differently, [avec] a compulsory course, where we will establish common ground for all students, rather than an exam that sometimes has consequences for graduation, ”he adds.
Train before evaluating
If the poor French of future teachers appears regularly in the headlines, the president of the Quebec Mathematical Association, Frédéric Gourdeau, does not like to talk about “gaps” in mathematics.
When they enter college, many aspiring teachers have not touched the discipline since high school. And very often, math was his pet.
“There is a stigma, a mathematical anxiety,” says Gourdeau, who is also a full professor in the mathematics and statistics department at Laval University.
The University of Montreal withdrew its math entrance test a long time ago. At the time, the method was considered “uneducated”, according to Pascale Lefrançois, dean of the Faculty of Education.
When they reach the first year, some students are rusty, others may have had certain shortcomings in their previous training. The most important thing is that they are competent when they leave the training.
Pascale Lefrançois, dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Montreal
Instead of the test, the establishment added a compulsory mathematics course for all pupils in infant and primary education, special education and teaching French as a second language.
In rare cases, a student who fails math twice, like any course, is therefore removed from the program. “But most of them are successful,” says Ms.jo The French.
“Affectivity must be worked on in relation to mathematics. It is also a human science. Mathematics is not made for learning like a robot, ”adds Frédéric Gourdeau.
The test was considered discriminatory in Ontario
In 2021, the Ontario government introduced a compulsory math test for aspiring teachers, in hopes of improving their mediocre skills.
In December, however, the High Court invalidated the examination, on the grounds that it discriminated against racialized candidates. In his decision, he highlighted the “significant disparities” between the success of white candidates and that of racialized candidates.
Barely 70% of black candidates had passed the test, compared to 90% of white students. The Court also noted that the success rate of French-speaking candidates was significantly lower than that of English-speaking candidates.
The Ontario government, which suggests the court erred in law, is now trying to appeal the decision.
“For any professional exam, there are tools to help people. But we had no resources. It became a source of stress and panic, “said Bella Lewkowicz, one of the students who took the case to court.
Be careful, though, before you compare yourself to Ontario. In Quebec, students must complete four years of college in education. Ontario’s training lasts two years after earning a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline from teaching.
However, several actors in the Ontario education industry are criticizing the approach chosen by their government … and look at what is being done here.
“Why doesn’t the Ontario government ask the Quebec Ministry of Education what it’s doing? It’s clear that its success should be a source of inspiration,” says Mjo Lewkowicz.
- Success rate of the written French certification test for teaching, compulsory for obtaining the title of teacher, in 2016