The education network will digitize its data

(Montreal) Quebec’s education network enters the 21st centurye Century with the computerization of its data, which can now be analyzed with the help of digital intelligence.

Updated March 14th

Pierre Saint Arnaud
The Canadian Press

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and his colleague in charge of Cybersecurity and Digital Éric Caire on Monday announced an investment of 10.6 million over two years aimed at digitizing all data collected by School Service Centers (CSS).

Minister Roberge said that during the pandemic it is important to know the number of positive cases in the classes, the situation in terms of absenteeism, who is attending the tutoring programme, the completion rate and so on. Result, an unnecessarily complicated task.

” Any [de ces] Educational information was easily accessible and quickly accessed. Each time it was an educational obstacle course and we had to collect all this information manually, through surveys, questionnaires, reporting. It’s an old way of collecting data that has slowed us down.

“Our schools, our School Service Centers, are gold mines of information and data. You had to be able to drill in the right place and pull it out,” he argued.

A proven approach

Initiatives in this direction have already been tested in some CSS and the results are promising. Thus, the deployment of digital intelligence at the CSS Cœur-des-Vallées in Outaouais and Val-des-Cerfs in Estrie has made it possible to prevent academic failure by recognizing, with a rate of over 90%, the majority of students as soon as they arrive at the Secondary 1 at risk of dropping out. The project also made it possible to bring together students with a similar profile or challenges to offer them support tailored to their specific needs.

In addition, thanks to this approach, the two CSSs have managed to reallocate their human resources better according to the needs of the different schools and to accurately predict future staff shortages by job category and adjust recruitment accordingly.

“We are not coming to make the school teams’ work harder,” Minister Roberge said. We don’t come and tell the teachers what to do. We don’t play in the pedagogy of the classes. »

We come to facilitate the work of school teams, reduce the severity of accounting bureaucracy by extracting data and sharing information.

Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education

The three priority areas of analysis target student absenteeism and academic success, staffing needs, and infrastructure maintenance operations.

A “cyberparanoid” government

This data, which is anonymized – or denominated, according to the ministry – can be processed and analyzed thanks to dashboards, among other things.

Minister Cairo wanted confirmation on this.

The Quebec government must be cyberparanoid. Given that we are still working with huge amounts of data, I would like to assure Quebecers: every measure is being taken to ensure the cybersecurity of this information.

Eric Caire, Minister for Cybersecurity and Digital

Of the expenditures involved, Mr. Roberge explained that £1.3 million will go towards data harmonization work to ensure data is compatible, comparable and mergeable; 5 million will be used to set up support teams in schools and CSS; 2 million will be used for the development and implementation of algorithms and predictive models; 1.1 million will go towards creating an artificial intelligence center of excellence dedicated to education; $1.1 million will be used to pool data and develop tools to educate and support student success.

These digitization and analysis efforts are being carried out with the help of the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence (MILA), the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO), the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of Intelligence Artificial and Digital Technology (OBVIA), as well as the company GRICS, the specialized in information technology in the education sector.

Questions for the CSQ

The Centrale des unions du Québec (CSQ), which represents about 120,000 members working in the education sector, has pointed out that the government’s announcements raise many questions.

“Of course everyone knows that getting information from the Ministry of Education is a real obstacle course! We are aware of the need to take the presented turn. It’s not about resisting it, it’s about making sure it’s done right. And given the different elements deployed today, we have several questions and certain concerns,” CSQ President Éric Gingras said in a press release.

The CSQ is particularly puzzled by the network staff’s respect for professional judgment. “No matter how effective a model, it will always remain a model. At the end of the day, it will always take someone to make a professional judgement. These guides will not be able to consider a student’s entire journey, their strengths and weaknesses, their development, as only educational staff can,” stresses Mr. Gingras.

According to CSQ, employees should be involved in the design of this data enrichment software, especially to avoid bias. “What data is being collected and used to measure what exactly? Developing this software in a vacuum to support the work of employees would be a mistake,” argues the top union.

For its part, the Fédération des centers de services scolaire du Québec said it welcomed the government’s announcement.

“We value this digital intelligence project in education because it can enable the school network to receive relevant data in a timely manner and be useful for decision-making in order to provide quality service and prevent dropout,” commented the President and CEO , Caroline Dupré, in a press release.

“Furthermore, as the education minister stressed, it is important to achieve these goals without increasing the workload of school staff and school administration, but rather reducing bureaucracy,” she added.

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