Education in Quebec

The Quebec education system is governed by the Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports (Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport). It is administered at the local level by publicly elected French and English school boards. Teachers are represented by province-wide unions that negotiate province-wide working conditions with local boards and the provincial government.

School age

The school age is required on September 30th. Students in the same grade are ranged from born after September 30th of a year to September 30th the next year. (e.g.: Students born from October 1st, 1998 to September 30, 1999 are in the same grade, except a grade retention. If a student is born at September 30th, 1998, he/she will be in a grade higher, but if the student is born after September 30th, 1999, he/she will be in a grade lower.)

Preschool, primary and secondary education

Optional preschool, also known as pre-kindergarten (prématernelle), is available in select inner city areas for children that are 4 years of age on September 30th of the school year. Kindergarten (maternelle) is available province wide for children that are 5 years of age on September 30th of the school year.

elementary education (primaire) starts at 6 years of age. There are 6 grades. If the student has failed an exam or he/she is often absent, he/she will have to repeat the grade in the next year. The student can have an exceptional year (13 years of age on September 30th, the excess of age limit) in order to repeat grade 6. But student can't have an exceptional year in order to promote to grade 6.

Secondary education (secondaire) starts at 12 years of age. There are 5 grades, called secondary 1-5 (sec 1-5 for short). If the student has failed an exam or he/she is often absent, he/she will have to repeat the grade in the next year.

Language in schools

Quebec has publicly funded French and English schools. In primary and secondary schools, according to the Charter of the French Language, all students must attend a French language school, except:

They may attend publicly funded English schools. These rules do not apply to temporary residents of Quebec or First Nation children. If a parent had the right to attend English schools, but did not, they do not lose the right for their children.

Since 2006, English is taught as a second language in French primary schools from grade 1 onwards, and a few schools also offer English immersion programs for advanced students. English schools offer a large range of programs that include French as a second language, French immersion, and fully bilingual programs that teach both English and French as first languages.

For the cégep and the university, students can learn either French or English, there are 2 choices.

Religion in schools

Formerly, school boards were divided between Roman Catholic and Protestant (called "confessional schools"). Attempts were made to set up a Jewish school board before the Second World War, but it failed partly due to divisions within the Jewish community. This confessional system was established through the British North America Act, 1867 (today the Constitution Act, 1867), which granted power over education to the provinces. Article 93 of the act made it unconstitutional for Quebec to change this system. Consequently, a constitutional amendment was required to operate what some see as the separation of the State and the Church in Quebec.

The Quebec Education Act of 1988 provided a change to linguistic school boards. In 1997, a unanimous vote by the National Assembly of Quebec allowed for Quebec to request that the Government of Canada exempt the province from Article 93 of the Constitution Act. This request was passed by the federal parliament, resulting in Royal Assent being granted to the Constitutional Amendment, 1997, (Quebec).

In the 1996-1997 school year, Quebec had 156 school districts including 135 Catholic districts, 18 Protestant school districts, and three First Nations districts. The school districts operated 2,670 public schools, including 1,895 primary schools, 576 general or professional secondary schools, and 199 combined primary and secondary schools.[1]

Catholics maintain their rights to confessional schools in other Canadian provinces. The main public schools network offers the choice between moral or religious education while Catholics run their own separate schools.

When public schools were deconfessionalized in 2000, Catholic and Protestant religious education classes along with nonreligious moral education classes continued to be part of the curriculum. Article 5 of the Quebec Public Education Act had been modified in 1997 so as to allow minority religious groups to be allowed religious education classes of their faith where their number were large enough, but this was removed in 2000. Then, in order to prevent court challenges by these same minority religious groups wanting specialist religious education in schools, the government invoked the notwithstanding clause, which expires after a maximum of 5 years. In 2005 the government of Premier Jean Charest decided not to renew the clause, abrogate Article 5 of the Public Education Act, modify Article 41 of the Quebec Charter of Rights and then eliminate the choice in moral and religious instruction that existed previously and, finally, impose a controversial new Ethics and religious culture curriculum to all schools, even the private ones. The ERC course has been taught starting in September 2008. Several court challenges have been launched against its compulsory nature.

Private schools

Quebec has the highest proportion of children going to private schools in North America. The phenomenon is not restricted to the well-to-do. Many middle class, lower middle class and even working class families scrimp and save to send their children to private schools. The government of Quebec gives a pro rata subsidy for each child to any private school which meets its standards and follows its prescriptions, reducing tuition costs to approximately 30% of non-subsidized private schools.

Most of the private schools are secondary institutions, though there are a few primary schools, most of them serving precise religious or cultural groups such as Armenian Orthodox Christians or certain Jewish faiths.

17% of the high school population of Quebec currently attends a private high school. The figure is even higher in urban centres such as Montreal, where 30% of high school students are in the private sector. A study released in August 2004 by the Quebec Ministry of Education revealed that, over the preceding five years, the private sector had grown by 12% while the public sector had shrunk 5.6%, with slightly steeper rate in the last year.

Private secondary schools usually select their students by having them go through their own scholastic exams and by making a study of the entire primary school record.

The Quebec public sector teachers' unions oppose any form of subsidy to private schools. They charge (1) that private schools select only the brightest and most capable students and reject children with learning difficulties; and argue (2) that by doing this they leave a burden to the public sector. Private schools usually have teachers who are not unionized, or who belong to associations not affiliated with the main body of Quebec public sector teachers' unions. The debate over the subsidies has been going on for several decades.

Post-secondary education


It should be noted that the term 'post-secondary' in this entry is used within the context of Quebec, specifically. As a rule, Canadian provinces other than Quebec do not consider completion of grade 11 in Quebec (Sec V)—or, more simply, the secondary diploma of Quebec—to be sufficient for university admission (or admission at other post-secondary institutions), since secondary education in all other provinces continues to and includes grade 12.

Both private and public colleges exist side by side, public institutions called general and professional education colleges (Official French only name: Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel or CÉGEP) and private independent college institutions in Quebec straddle the definitions of both secondary and post-secondary education. In Quebec, these institutions are readily considered post-secondary, but Quebec is the only province that requires 11 (rather than 12) years of study in order to obtain the high school diploma. While standard admission to college is based on the secondary school diploma of Quebec (representing completion of grade 11), completion of the two-year college program does not give students the equivalent of a university Diploma (university diplomas throughout Canada are awarded following completion of at least a two-year post-secondary program of study). Rather, holders of the two-year college diploma still must complete a minimum of three years of university education in order to obtain a bachelor's degree. By law, Bachelor's degrees from government-accredited universities in Canada are considered equal, whether from Quebec or other provinces. Those unfamiliar with Quebec may wonder if three-year university programs there are therefore equal to four-year university programs in other provinces, or in other countries where four-year first university degree programs are the norm. However, given that college diploma holders are granted up to one year of advanced standing credit at any university, it is clear that this is not the case. What exists in Quebec is simply a different structure of education than in other provinces, which ultimately yields exactly the same total duration of study when years of secondary and post-secondary study are combined.

Most students continue to a general and professional education college (called CEGEP an acronym for the French Collège d' enseignement général et professionel) after high/secondary school. These students can specialize in a number of different vocational or pre-university fields. The term of study is two years for pre-university and three years for most vocational diplomas. Students completing college earn the Diplôme d'études collégiales, sometimes with other designations attached to this title. Like primary and secondary schools, both state-run (public) colleges and private colleges exist.

The word/acronym CEGEP can only legally be used to describe the state-run post-secondary (post-grade 11) schools, where tuition is free, but in fact very little attention is paid to this. The 26 private institutions which offer a post-secondary program recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education receive a pro rata subsidy for each of their 15,000 students, and grant the same diplomas as the public colleges. Unlike the state-run colleges, the private post-secondary schools do not have to combine pre-university and vocational programs in one institution. About half offer pre-university and the other half offer vocational programs.

Graduates of two-year college programs often receive up to one year of advanced standing at universities outside of Quebec, but no more than this. Effectively, the first year of college study is considered equivalent to grade twelve in all other provinces, while the second year is considered to be equal to the freshman university year. Chronologically and legally, this is true and has been in effect for the entire modern era of education in Canada.


Primary school, secondary school, and college add up to 13 years of pre-university study, one more than other provinces (although part of college study is post-secondary, as evidenced by the treatment of college diplomas in and outside of Quebec). For this reason, most undergraduate university degrees in Quebec universities are three years in length for Quebec students who have obtained a college diploma. Universities from outside Quebec have four-year bachelor's degree programs, because secondary study in all provinces outside of Quebec ends with grade 12 (rather than secondary study ending with grade 11 and then being followed by two years of college study, as in Quebec). University education in Quebec is much like in other North American jurisdictions. In addition to formerly private institutions, the government of Quebec founded a network of universities in several Quebec cities, called the Université du Québec. All universities in the province have since become public in a similar fashion to other Canadian provinces.

From the standpoint of post-secondary institutions outside of Quebec who may be trying to determine transfer credit, there are essentially two ways in which to interpret the two-year college program, bolstered by local and countrywide legislation. The first option is to remove the first year of college study from consideration, since it is in fact the twelfth year of study overall in Quebec, and the laws of the land throughout Canada dictate that a high school diploma from Quebec lacks one additional year in order to be considered the equivalent of a high school diploma elsewhere. The second option would be to include both years of college study in the evaluation, knowing that the maximum of possible transfer credit/advanced standing is one year at the freshman level. This second option is viable if you are uncomfortable with using the chronological separation of year 12 and year 13 as your rationale, especially since college courses are not necessarily all taken in a predetermined chronological order (the order can vary from student to student).

Quebec subsidises post-secondary education and controls tuition fees, resulting in low student costs in university education. There are three levels of tuition: Quebec resident (lowest level), Out-of-province Canadian resident (tuition set to average Canadian tuition) and International tuition (highest). The Quebec resident tuition is only available to residents of Quebec, residents of jurisdictions that have bilateral agreements with the Quebec government, and to students enrolled in French literature or Quebec studies programme.

Montreal has four universities and has a higher percentage of university students in its population than all other major North American cities.

List of Quebec universities

French-language universities

English-language universities

See also


  1. "Les réseaux scolaires publics et privés." Government of Quebec. January 28, 1998. Retrieved on December 21, 2012. "En 1996-1997, on dénombre 156 commissions scolaires dont 135 reconnues comme catholiques, dix-huit reconnues comme protestantes, et trois à statut particulier qui desservent principalement les élèves autochtones. En 1996-1997, les 156 commissions scolaires gèrent 2 670 écoles publiques. De ce nombre, 1 895 écoles donnent uniquement l'enseignement primaire, 576, uniquement l'enseignement secondaire général ou professionnel, alors que 199 écoles offrent à la fois l'enseignement primaire et l'enseignement secondaire."

Further reading

External links

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