As students across the province prepare to go back to school, Advocates are concerned, not only about their safety but also about the quality of their education.

The pandemic has made the already dire teacher shortage in Quebec even worse according to Heidi Yetman, president of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT).

Be it English-language or French-language institutions, Yetman describes a prevailing feeling that teachers in Quebec are underpaid and not respected in the province. 

While there haven't been many studies to actually deduce how drastic the problem is, the government does admit to a shortage in schools across the province.  

MTL Blog spoke with Yetman to find out more about the factors behind Quebec's teacher shortage. 

"There are many factors," causing the shortage, she said.

"First, the working conditions have become more and more difficult in recent years due to a lack of support, more and more students with difficulties in the classrooms, an increase in administrative work, and a lack of autonomy."

She also claims a "heavy" curriculum has stifled teacher creativity.

"Second, a teacher's salary has not increased with the cost of living and our purchasing powers have decreased. In Quebec, teachers are the least paid over our careers than any other province in Canada."

There's also an issue of attracting students to the profession and retaining talent.

"Fewer students are going into teaching at university and we see that 20% to 30% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years."

The pandemic has only sped up an exit from teaching.

"Add that to the pandemic and many teachers have decided to take early retirement because they are worried about their health and safety."

Though some people might point to some policies such as Bill 21 as a contributing factor to the teacher shortage, Yetman suggests that government policies aren't necessarily to blame. 

"I don't believe that Bill 21 has a big effect. In the French sector, the shortage is even bigger than in the English sector," said Yetman.

The blame instead, might rest on the government's overall attitude about education.

"The government has to invest in education and value the teaching profession," said Yetman. 

A small COVID-19 outbreak has already been traced to three schools in Montreal. 

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