The intention of the Ontario government to ban cell phones from classrooms as of the next school year is far from unanimous. Local stakeholders claim that there are many gray areas and that a unilateral measure is not desirable.
S elon The Canadian Press, which learned that this announcement would come this week, school boards and school principals would be responsible for enforcing the ban. However, there would be some exceptions to the rule, for example the use of cell phones would be allowed for students with special needs or teachers wanting to complete their work.
During the last election campaign, the Progressive Conservative Party proposed in its program such a ban that is already in effect in some schools.
The Conservative government held consultations on education last year. While the details of the sex education program dominated the headlines, information was also gathered about a possible cell phone ban in the classroom. About 97% of respondents were in favor of restricting phones in the classroom.
“That’s what came closest to unanimity during our consultation,” a source told The Canadian Press.
However, the government is wrong with such a directive, said the president of the Association franco-ontarienne of Catholic school boards (AFOCSC), Jean Lemay, which judges the measure too drastic.
“It’s going to be complicated to manage, and we have a problem with that, because we’re preparing our students for the 21st century. This is the life of today, we are not in 1930. It is an educational tool as important as a whiteboard. It has been used for years and every (school) board has the same approach, that is, each school decides on its code of life. It is then at the discretion of the teacher to decide what is allowed in class or not, “he says.
The latter nevertheless specifies that a framework is in force in each establishment and that restrictions apply.
Schoolchildren have no choice, for example, other than to connect to the WiFi network of their establishment, question that there is “a control” of the daily use of these devices inside the walls.
Also, in case of intimidation or threats, it is zero tolerance and the phone is confiscated and given to parents.
On the union side, we get the impression that this directive is of a “more political than anything” nature.
“We think that a complete ban is utopian. It’s going to take a lot of management and time. Supervision is better than prohibition, it must come from teachers and school boards themselves. It is very easy for the government to make such an announcement, because it makes a splash, but who will have to manage all that afterwards? We are on the ground and the majority of us are parents too, so we know how difficult it can be to supervise the use of cell phones, “says the president of the Association of French Teachers. Ontario (AEFO), Rémi Sabourin.
He recalls that in the early 2000s, some school boards had to change course after opting for a cell proscription.
On the Quebec side
On the Quebec side, the autonomy of each school is also advocated, arguing that it is neither black nor white as a situation.
“We must teach young people new technologies, it is not by prohibiting them that we will make them progress. We do education, not repression. Just show them that there are times to use it, while others do not. Teachers have the maturity and the expertise to balance things out, especially when it comes to professional autonomy, which they claim a lot. The coercion, it gives nothing, “launches the president of the Draveurs School Board, Claude Beaulieu.
As for the Outaouais Teachers Union, it is argued that the current mode of operation, which leaves the freedom to each school to decide on the issue, does not cause any problem.
“We do not have a firm position on this, but there are established procedures in each school that seem to suit the needs of teachers. For example, at the Island high school, it is strictly forbidden throughout the school, whereas at Mont-Bleu, they can use it in the corridors, in the agora, in the cafeteria, etc. There are nuances. There is a multitude of educational opportunities with these devices, while other teachers make the choice, probably for just as good reasons, not to use them, “says President Suzanne Tremblay.