Artificial intelligence to analyze education data in Quebec

Minister Roberge indicated that, during the pandemic, it was essential to know the number of positive cases in the classes, to know the situation with regard to absenteeism, to know who was following the tutoring program, to know the graduation rate and so on. result, an unnecessarily complicated task.

None [de ces] education information was easily accessible and quickly accessible. Each time, it was an obstacle course in education and we had to collect manually, through surveys, questionnaires, reporting, all this informationhe explains.

It’s an old way of collecting data that has slowed us down. Our schools, our school service centers, are goldmines of information and data. You had to be able to drill in the right place and extract it. »

A quote from The Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge

A proven approach

Initiatives in this direction have already been tested in some school service center and the results are promising. Thus, to school service center in Cœur-des-Vallées, in Outaouais, and Val-des-Cerfs, in Estrie, the use of digital intelligence has made it possible to prevent academic failure by detecting, with a rate greater than 90%, the students more at risk of dropping out as soon as they arrive in Secondary 1.

The project also made it possible to bring together students with a similar profile or facing similar challenges in order to offer them support that corresponds to their specific needs.

Also, both school service center have succeeded, thanks to this approach, in better redistributing their human resources according to the needs of different schools, in accurately predicting future staff shortages according to job categories and in adjusting recruitment accordingly.

We are not coming to increase the task of the school teams, made a point of specifying the Minister Roberge. We don’t come and tell the teachers what to do. We do not come to play in the pedagogy of the classes. We come to lighten the work of the school teams, reduce the heaviness of the bureaucracy in rendering accounts by extracting data and sharing information.

The three priority areas of analysis will target student absenteeism and academic success, human resource needs and infrastructure maintenance operations.

A government cyberparanoid

These data, which will be anonymized – or denominalized, according to the expression of the ministry – can be processed and analyzed thanks, among other things, to dashboards.

Minister Cairo wanted to be reassuring to this effect. The Government of Quebec must be cyberparanoid. Given the fact that we still work with massive data, I want to reassure Quebecers: all measures will be taken to ensure the cybersecurity of this information.

Among the expenses that will be incurred, Mr. Roberge explained that:

  • $1.3 million will go towards data harmonization work, to ensure that data is compatible, comparable and susceptible to merging;
  • $5 million will be used to deploy support teams to schools and school service center;
  • $2 million will be used to develop and implement predictive algorithms and models;
  • $1.1 million will go towards the creation of an artificial intelligence center of expertise dedicated to education;
  • $1.1 million will be allocated to pooling data and developing tools for training and supporting student success.

This digitization and analysis effort is carried out with the help of the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence (MILA), the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO), the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of Intelligence artificial and digital technology (OBVIA) as well as GRICS, a company specializing in information technology in the field of education.

Questions to the CSQ

The Centrale des unions du Québec (CSQ), which represents about 120,000 members of the education sector, said that the government’s announcements raise many questions.

Of course, everyone knows that getting information from the Ministry of Education is a real obstacle course! We are fully aware of the need to take the turn that has been presented. The idea is not to oppose it, but to ensure that it is done correctly. And in light of the various elements deployed today, we have several questions and certain fearssaid the president of the CSQ, Éric Gingras, in a press release.

The CSQ wonders in particular about respect for the professional judgment of network personnel. A model, however effective it may be, will always simply remain a model. It will always take someone, at the end of the day, to make professional judgment. These guides will not be able to account for the entire course of a student, his strengths and weaknesses, his development as only the education staff can do.points out Mr. Gingras.

According to the CSQ, staff should be involved in the conceptualization of this data enhancement software, in particular to avoid preconceptions. What data will be included and used, to measure what exactly? The development in a vacuum of this software to support the work of the staff would be an aberrationargues the central union.

For its part, the Fédération des centers de services scolaire du Québec said it welcomed the government’s announcement.

We appreciate the fact that this digital intelligence project in education can enable the school network to obtain relevant data, available in a timely manner and useful for decision-making in order to deploy a quality service offer and prevent school dropoutcommented the president and CEO, Caroline Dupré, in a press release.

Moreover, as the Minister of Education pointed out, it is important to achieve these objectives without increasing the workload of school staff and administrators, but rather to reduce bureaucracyshe added.

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Artificial intelligence to analyze education data in Quebec

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