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Think Tank Claims Incompetent Teachers Retaining Jobs are Impacting Quebec Students Negatively

School students’ education in Quebec is taking a hit because incompetent teachers are not being weeded out, according to a note published Aug. 24 by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) public policy think tank.

Data from the MEI reveals that within the last five years, four teachers out of 111,000 were fired due to incompetence within Quebec school boards. This accounts for a minuscule 0.0036 percent of the province’s teaching workforce.

“The harmful effect of a bad teacher on the development of students is such that it can’t be tolerated,” said Vincent Geloso, senior economist at the MEI and author of the study. “Unfortunately, Quebec students are paying the price for teachers who remain on the job despite their lack of ability.”

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The economic note, titled “Greater Flexibility in Hiring and Firing Teachers Improves Quality of Education,” said that productivity, income levels, and service quality all improve when organizations have more flexibility and ease in the hiring and firing process. Simply put, the faster one can get rid of unsuitable employees, the sooner one can get in someone better suited to the task.

Over the last ten years, the provincial administration has explored various strategies in an attempt to enhance the calibre of education within Quebec’s elementary and high schools. Smaller class sizes, performance bonuses, and stricter qualification criteria, among other strategies, have fallen short in efforts to improve student grades.

“Class size and spending per pupil have relatively small effects on student performance. The competence of teachers outweighs these variables by large margins,” Mr. Geloso said. “An underperforming teacher might be endured by a school administrator who prefers to avoid the lengthy process of securing a dismissal.”

In 2016, the MEI submitted province-wide information access inquiries regarding teacher dismissals to all of Quebec’s school boards, the first such province-wide request of its kind. It found that from 2010 to 2015, only seven teachers had been fired for incompetence.

The MEI said that these results suggested that fewer than one in 10,000 teachers was incompetent and that it was “highly implausible, especially given that Quebec has one of the lowest rates of high school completion in Canada.”

In a second similar study from 2018 to 2023 conducted by MEI, the results supported earlier findings. It concluded that a mere four teachers had been fired for incompetence. In the study period, most teachers were fired for chronic absenteeism and misconduct or insubordination, as opposed to incompetence.


The MEI report said decentralization of school administration to enable schools to manage their own teaching staff was a factor rarely considered to address staff quality and performance. The solution, it said, is to decentralize the management of teaching personnel, which would provide school administrators with more power to hire and fire teaching staff.

According to the MEI report, pan-national analyses show that students achieve higher levels of performance when educational institutions have more independence concerning staff and daily administrative matters.

“By leaving school choice to government instead of letting parents decide, Quebec’s school system does not encourage excellence in education,” Mr. Geloso said. “We need to give power back to parents and school administrators, rather than government bureaucrats, so that the best teachers will be rewarded.”

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