On October 1, 2018, Quebec’s political landscape shook following the majority win of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ). This marked the first time in our province's history that a party other than the Parti Liberal du Québec or the Parti Québécois had won. Among the potential changes the CAQ will implement, their proposed education reform tops the list of concerns for most parents. We know that politics can be overwhelming, so we’ve done some research for you! Here is a guide to our current education system and the changes that the CAQ is proposing.
As of the 2018-2019 school year, the Quebec education system has four levels. These are: preschool education, elementary & secondary education, college education and university education. Public and private institutions exist at every level. These institutions are categorized into English schools and French schools. Public schools are completely secular. This means that it is illegal to impose any particular religion upon the children at school or through their studies.
A major component of our education system, especially for the anglophone community, is eligibility. Children require a certificate of eligibility to attend elementary or secondary public or government subsidized private school in English. There are, however, no English eligibility criteria to attend an English CEGEP or university.
English schooling eligibility can generally be obtained in one of four ways:
Once one child receives eligibility to study in English in Quebec, their siblings may also be declared eligible.
These regulations do not apply to students studying at non-government subsidized private schools. You can consult a list of them here.
Our current system also consists of school boards. A school board comprises elected individuals from a community who have authority over various aspects of education. Just like our schools, school boards are organized by language. Our school boards deal with language instruction, the role of computers in education and multiculturalism, among other issues. The public school boards in Quebec are primarily responsible for personal matters and providing facilities and supplies. They receive money from the government and decide how best to use it, spending it on personnel, renovations, textbooks, and more.
One of the most controversial parts of the CAQ government’s proposed education reform is the abolition of school boards. The CAQ is planning instead implement “service centres” which will offer administrative assistance to schools. Beyond this, not much detail on the plan has been provided.
Francois Legault and the CAQ party are of the belief that school boards experience governance problems and that they are subject to low participation rates in elections. While these may be valid issues, Alain Fortier, the president of the Fédération des Commissions Scolaires du Québec (FSCQ) wants to remind us that abolishing school boards would make it so that over 3000 individual schools need to approach the government with concerns about budgeting and services. He believes that school boards distribute resources in a fair manner, which may be more than a centralized government can handle.
The abolition of school boards proves to be a point of anguish for anglophone communities. School boards allow the anglophone community to have control over certain aspects of their education system. This ensures that despite living in a majority French province, anglophones have the power to assure the quality of our education and to make sure that studying in English does not leave our children at a disadvantage.
Despite concerns from the anglophone community, and extreme confidence from the CAQ, it is unlikely that abolishing school boards will be possible. This is especially true for anglophone school boards. Under Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (CCRF), the English-speaking community in Quebec is guaranteed the right to control and manage its own educational institutions.
Francois Legault has stated on multiple occasions that the CAQ government will invoke Section 33 of the CCRF, otherwise known as the notwithstanding clause. Section 33 gives parliament or provincial legislatures the power to override certain parts of the CCRF. This, however, is impossible, as Section 23 of the CCRF is not subject to the notwithstanding clause. Therefore, Legault has no legal grounds upon which he can abolish English school boards. This matter is one that anglophone activists have stated they are willing to take all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The CAQ’s education reform would also introduce free pre-school across the province. The plan is to open 4-year-old kindergarten to everyone. In addition, the CAQ would potentially offer free learning-exceptionality testing to all four-year-olds.
Experts have speculated that pre-school is not necessary for all children. However, it does benefit children’s socialization, academic skills, familiarity with rules and schedules. Parents should also be encouraging their children to learn through play before they begin school. Most parents, however don’t have time to do all of this while balancing a career and other responsibilities.
For most, having a trained early childhood educator at hand for this stage in their child’s life proves essential. Free pre-school appears to have no major flaws, aside from its projected cost of $311 million annually. In addition, it would free up nearly 50000 spots in our public daycare system within 5 years. This would be a huge reduction in burden to a system that is currently bursting at the seams.
Subsidized 4-year-old kindergarten could prove to be one of the CAQ’s first success stories and is one of the less controversial elements of their planned education reform. Of course, there will always be obstacles no matter what changes the CAQ plans to implement. All we can do right now is wait and see what happens.
To ease any concerns that you may have about this major reform, Laurus has completely revamped our Juniors program. The Laurus Juniors Program ensures that our youngest campers are ahead of the academic curve when they enter school. Our program will provide them with the opportunity to advance their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. Our Juniors will be able to learn about themselves, and the world that surrounds them on a day to day basis! Ultimately, the Laurus Juniors Program will give our young campers an academic "leg-up" that will allow them to overcome any difficulties that may arise with the CAQ's new pre-school plan. Read more about the Laurus Juniors Program and look into registration options here!