Quebec’s education system is coming under fire.
Preliminary results of a new study suggest systemic racism in Quebec schools is adversely impacting Black youth, and the researchers who conducted the study say some pedagogical practices need to change.
The study, led by University of Ottawa assistant professor Lerona Lewis, said teaching approaches in Quebec schools are causing some Black youth to feel excluded.
“What we’re trying to show,” explained Lewis, “is in the Quebec context, how systemic racism operates in the classroom by the teachers’ pedagogical practices.”
In the survey, which was commissioned by the LaSalle Multicultural Resource Center (LMRC), researchers spoke to 41 people including students, teachers and educators, over 15-months.
According to Lewis, though most students said they have good teachers, respondents raised several red flags.
First, parents complained about poor engagement from schools when there was a problem with a child.
“They expect greater partnership from the school and less of a judgment on their parenting styles,” Lewis told Global News.
High school science and technology teacher Sabi Hinkson, who wasn’t part of the study but is aware of it, pointed out that judgments like that are some of the consequences of a big problem.
“A lot of teachers have implicit biases,” she noted. “They have these presuppositions or stuff that they think they know about Black people, and that’s coming through in their pedagogy.”
Another issue researchers found is a perception by Black students of over-surveillance. It’s something Gloria Ann Cozier, one of the researchers and a member of the LMRC, said staff there have been hearing.
“Even police patrolling around the schools which many Black children attend,” she said. “It’s very interesting.”
Lewis also pointed to another student complaint respondents spoke about — how issues that concern Black communities are taught.
“Within the classroom, you found that Black issues pertaining to Black students were both ignored and presented in a way that was kind of, one can say, uncaring,” she noted.
According to her, though some issues were avoided, other difficult topics like slavery were discussed. But students were left to deal with the issues and process the emotional impact without any guidance from the school.
She said the George Floyd story was one example of a topic that wasn’t dealt with in the classroom.
“While the teachers ignored it the students in the class did not ignore it,” she pointed out. “They spoke among themselves.”
Lewis said in one instance a respondent recounted an argument between two students about the incident, with one student claiming that the video of the murder was a fake.
Hinkson, who’s Black, believes studies like this are important and thinks students now face more racism in schools than she did as a child.
“There’s all these different barriers and layers that Black kids need to deal with before they can even learn,” she observed.
Lewis stressed what’s needed is a “pedagogy of caring” to help ensure these problems are dealt with.
The final results of the study are expected to be published in the spring.
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