Ed. students fight for paid stage

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Education students from McGill and universities across the province will gather in Quebec City this Thursday for a demonstration as part of the campaign to gain remuneration for their fourth-year practicum – or work placement course.

Students pursuing education degrees in Quebec are currently required to complete four unpaid practicums, one in each year of their program. According to Claudia Gucciardi, Education representative to the Students’ Society’s legislative council, practicum positions often require students to travel long distances to their placement positions and put in extensive work outside of the classroom to prepare for lessons.

“We’ve been looking at other schools and programs across Canada that do offer some form of remuneration,” she said. “But our mandatory stages are not being remunerated at all; there are no loans or bursaries available specifically for that purpose.”

In addition, Gucciardi explained that the campaign aims to put pressure on the Ministry of Education to standardize practicum guidelines for all schools in the province.

“Different schools have different practicum lengths, and different requirements … so we’re looking to standardize the stages,” she said. “It would be great to have all the stages paid, but right now the most realistic goal to have is to try to get the longest one paid.”

The demonstration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. outside of the National Assembly and will include students from McGill, the University of Quebec at Montreal, and Laval University in Quebec City. Although the campaign has been endorsed by two provincial student lobbying groups – the Quebec Student Round Table (TaCEQ) and the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) – SSMU Vice-Principal External Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan said that the campaign is being led by the individual student associations.

“The campaign that is going on right now is one in which, in our discussions with the FEUQ we’ve agreed that we don’t want it to be territorial,” said Ronderos-Morgan. “We want it to be as inclusive as possible, so it’s going to be led by the student associations with technical support of FEUQ and TaCEQ.”

Ronderos-Morgan and Gucciardi both expressed disappointment with the scheduling of the demonstration, due to both the issue of transporting students from Montreal to Quebec City early in the morning as well as the fact that most fourth-year Education students are currently completing their practicums and cannot miss class. However, Ronderos-Morgan said he has been in discussion with the FEUQ to organize a demonstration here in Montreal for sometime in March.

Although Michelle Courchesne, the provincial minister of education, announced the creation of a body to discuss the issue of paid education practicums in November 2008, Gucciardi said she has yet to hear of any results from this.

“Last I’ve heard was that [the Ministry of Education] just wasn’t looking to delve into the issue,” she said. “That’s why we’re looking to put pressure and hold these demonstrations. We want to hold discussions on the issue and get the ministry to take this more seriously.”

The ministry did not return the Tribune’s requests for comment.