Only certain students were allowed to use the digital tool during the Quebec ministry exam

Not all secondary 5 students took last Thursday’s ministerial French exams according to the same rules, Radio-Canada learned.

According to Radio-Canada, some classes were only allowed to use a printed dictionary for the exam while others were allowed to use the digital dictionary. Usito. Unlike other dictionaries, it describes the particular French in Quebec.

The dictionary was developed by the University of Sherbrooke and funded by the provincial government, and is considered “more effective” than traditional dictionaries, said Julien Bureau, professor of education sciences at Laval University.

“At equal levels of knowledge, [the digital dictionary] is really more practical: the digital tool is really versatile,” he said.

The user only has to type a word in a search bar to check its spelling, and the tool makes suggestions in real time, offering synonyms, related words as well as verb conjugations.

But not everyone was allowed to use it. Last fall, the Department of Education said that Usito may be used during the French exam, but only by students who have already used it “regularly” during the school year. Students who did not know Usito before could not use it.

The situation has created differences even within organizations.

Parent denounces a “two-speed” system

At Discoverers School Service Center (CSSDD), which operates four secondary schools in the greater Quebec City region, only nine classes had the right to use Usito.

“There is no prejudice for the students, as long as they have the same conditions during the ministerial test that they had during the learning and assessments during the year,” said Marie-Ève ​​​​Malouin, CSSDD spokesperson.

At Capital School Service Center (CSSC), which also operates in Quebec and the surrounding area, people with learning difficulties therefore did not have access to the virtual dictionary.

In an email exchange, obtained by Radio-Canada, the father lamented the “two-tier system” for the exam. Her daughter, who has attention deficit disorder, had spelling problems, but the school said her difficulties did not justify granting her permission to use the virtual dictionary.

According to Office, the professor of education, the ministry allowing different tools for the exam is not in itself a problem.

“The problem here is that some people were blocked from accessing a tool that was considered authorized and acceptable for review,” he said.

He said that from a “fair standpoint”, the person taking the exam should be able to choose which tools are approved for use.

In a statement, the Department of Education said it had no data on how many students used the digital dictionary in their exams last week. Using the online dictionary also does not give some students an advantage in the exam, the ministry said.

“According to a study conducted on the use of digital dictionaries following the June 2019 Secondary 5 French test, it appears that the use of the digital dictionary does not constitute an advantage for student success,” he writes. .

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