LA SARRE, QUE. -- Quebec education unions say that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning should never be favoured because it has a significant impact on children and teachers after a study.

The Federation du personnel de l'enseignement prive (FPEP), which is affiated with the Centrale des syndicats du Quebec (CSQ), released a report Sunday that outlines the consequences of online education on students and teachers.

Among the impacts, the report cites lower learning retention by students, the erosion of the relationship between teachers and their students and the extra workload for teachers.

"This practice, for us, must really remain exceptional," said FPEP-CSQ vice-president Marie-Josee Dallaire at a virtual press conference on Sunday.

Contrary to some scientific studies that suggest that the use of technological tools has a positive influence on motivation, teachers surveyed by the FPEP-CSQ report an opposite effect on their students, who have become "spectators of their learning".

In addition, students who are less comfortable with these technologies are at a disadvantage compared to their classmates.

Teachers' mental health has also been severely affected by online courses, according to FPEP-CSQ President Stephane Lapointe.

"Continuous exposure to the screen, constant connection to technological platforms with everyday digital tools, overtime to maintain pedagogical continuity and constant adaptation to ministerial directives lead to a permanent state of mental overload among teachers," he said. 

Dallaire denounced the desire of some institutions to seek to normalize distance education, a practice she said could have repercussions for staff and students.

"A snowstorm or a competition happening at the same time as a school day are not exceptional circumstances that justify upsetting teachers' planning and pedagogy," she explained.

The FPEP-CSQ is therefore asking Minister of Education Jean-Francois Roberge to establish clear guidelines for distance education, starting with the next school year, and not to "give in to the many pretexts" that could justify its use.

Like their counterparts in the public sector, FPEP-CSQ blamed the CAQ government for the lack of stability in ministerial directives in education, which has been "very exhausting" for their members.

The FPEP study was conducted with 17 affiliated unions in an interview format with teaching and support staff.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 30, 2021.