By Kalina Laframboise | Published October 14 by The Montreal Gazette
The night before the first day of school, Erin Flynn had all but given up hope. The recent Bishop’s University graduate had still not signed a teaching contract and accepted she may not find relevant employment in the education sector for the upcoming year.
In what Flynn chalks up to chance, she was interviewed the following day for a position at Châteauguay Valley Regional High School and wound up in a classroom with her new students 20 minutes after the interview ended. She is an exception among her peers who crossed the stage after four years of exams, stress and internships, only to continue working summer jobs. Her contract is 80 per cent of a full-time workload, the subjects are not what she specializes in and she provides instruction in both English and French; yet she was fortunate to have found work at all.
“I lucked out,” said Flynn. “The majority of my peers did not find teaching jobs.”
This is not uncommon for new teachers and students completing degrees in education in Quebec — especially those who apply to the province’s struggling English system. The sector’s troubles go beyond a sluggish job market — English school boards face a decline in enrolment, extensive budget cuts, limitations on admission due to Bill 101, forced closures and merging of schools and a plunge in retirements.
A report from the Ministry of Education for the 2012-13 school year shows a drop in both the number of children eligible to attend English schools and the number of students who choose to exercise this right. More than 13,000 students who have the right to English instruction opted for French instead. Across the province, parents are sending their children to French schools more than ever before and as a result the English system is scrambling.