April 24, 2017 6:49 pm
Updated: April 24, 2017 7:31 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Former teacher worried about quality of education at EMSB, LBPSB

There are growing concerns about vocational programs at both the EMSB and the LBPSB. Global's Gloria Henriquez speaks to one teacher who says she’s worried about the quality of education students are receiving.

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A former teacher says she’s worried about the quality of education students are receiving at a vocational program taught at both the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

Negar Haghighat taught the “Start a Business” vocational program for almost a year.

She taught mostly foreign students at both EMSB and Lester B. Pearson School Board buildings.

But she says she was so disturbed at the experience, that she quit.

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“I was being asked to admit students who weren’t qualified to sit in that class. I was being asked to pass students who did not pass. I was being asked to turn a blind eye to some plagiarism that was reported and so at one point, from an ethics perspective, I wasn’t able to continue,” Haghighat told Global News.

She claims the plagiarism happened in one of her EMSB courses.

Haghighat is not the only teacher who has expressed concerns, according to the Pearson Teachers Union.

“We have heard that as well, that they feel like they’re being pushed to pass students but I haven’t heard it from very many teachers. It’s a very small, little select group, and it’s something I was going to look into,” Heidi Yateman, the president of the Pearson Teachers Union said.

Vocational education programs are one of the biggest sources of revenue for the EMSB and Pearson boards.

But sources tell Global News that many of the foreign students don’t speak English or French, well.

One of the schools that allegedly recruits underqualified students says that students are taken in regardless of their language skills.

“It’s a struggle. If there is a struggle, that is a struggle for the teachers especially because they are not trained as teachers of working with second-language students but there is still that expectation,” said Ann Moran, head of the West Island Career Centre.

READ MORE: Investigation underway into quality of Quebec’s French proficiency programs

The West Island Career Centre is part of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

Haghighat says she was recruited to work here through an ad on Kijiji.

“I truly wasn’t aware of that,” Moran said.

Moran denies pressuring teachers to pass students.

“I have not heard this from my own teachers because everything is a work in progress, and you need to work out those kinks,” Moran said.

“If teachers are feeling that type of anxiety, we need to find a solution.”

Anyone can enroll in the program, there are no prerequisites.

Most of the students are newcomers to Quebec and are recruited by third parties hired by the schools.

The Pearson program says most of the students enrolled in its program, pass the course.

But the director says passing requires a rigorous process that she personally supervises.

“We review every single exam that comes in,” Moran said.

READ MORE: Tensions mount at English Montreal School Board

The English Montreal School Board also offers the same program.

Haghighat says she also taught “Starting a Business” at the John F. Kennedy Adult Centre.

“What we have been seeing is a crisis of quality. Everywhere we turn, people are complaining primarily about the quality,” Julien Feldman, an EMSB commissioner said.

Global News reached out to the EMSB.

A spokesperson said they’ve never had any issues with their staff.

They also noted that Haghighat is not currently teaching at the board.

They went on to say that the vocational programs are subcontracted to third parties.

“These partnerships outline that the school board is responsible for the teaching and evaluation of the students while the community organization is responsible for the hours of the individualized mentoring,” the statement read.

Currently, both the Lester B. Pearson and the English Montreal school boards are under investigation by the province’s anti-corruption squad.

READ MORE: Calls for transparency at the Lester B. Pearson School Board

Global News was unable to confirm if the investigation concerns the “Starting a Business” program.

UPAC told Global News they wouldn’t comment because the investigation is ongoing.

The Ministry of Education hired an auditor last November to review the school boards’ practices.

Meanwhile Haghighat says she hopes things will change because she believes these students deserve more.

“They’re coming into a country, they have expectations, they have needs and we’re not helping them. We’re not serving them. We’re not serving the society by doing this at all.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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