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Quebec lacking upwards of 8,500 teachers as new school year looms

A Grade 6 classroom is shown in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The start of the academic year is looming, but Quebec is missing close to 8,500 teachers in its classrooms across the province.

Education Minister Bernard Drainville confirmed the numbers Wednesday during a news conference in Quebec City on the situation.

The province is lacking 1,859 full-time teachers and 6,699 part-time teachers. The teacher shortage comes to a total of 8,558, according to Drainville.

“It’s a considerable challenge, I don’t have to tell you,” he told reporters. “Nor do I need to tell you that this is a reality for which there is no magic solution.”

Drainville said that while the shortage stood at about 5,300 at the same time in 2022, only 57 of 72 school service centres had responded to the ministry’s questions last year. This year, nearly all school service centres provided answers on how many positions remain unfilled.

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In a message to parents, Drainville said he understands their concerns and that the government is working hard to fill staff positions as kids head back to school.

“The school teams are at work. The ministry is at work. The rest of us, as a team, are working very, very hard to ensure that we fill as many positions as possible between now and the start of the school year,” he said.

Drainville admitted, however, that Quebec will have to continue to rely on what he called “not legally qualified” individuals — who don’t have teaching certificates or degrees — to fill classrooms. He repeated that his goal is to have at least “one adult” in every classroom by the time schools reopen next week.

While about 3,000 education program students graduate each year in the province, Drainville said that is not enough to fill the 4,000-teacher gap from annual retirements and early departures during the academic year. Labour leaders have attributed that attrition to teachers’ mounting workloads, due in part to a lack of resources to help manage a high proportion of students who have difficulty learning.

Drainville said efforts are underway to ease the pressure on teachers. This includes additional assistants in about 100 schools and higher starting salaries for teachers.

Quebec Premier François Legault weighed in on the situation Wednesday, reiterating there was no magic solution to fix the shortage given that it takes years for students in education programs to finish their teaching degrees and enter the workforce. He issued an appeal to existing teachers to “not give up” despite the challenges plaguing the education system.

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— with files from The Canadian Press

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