This was an eventful week for Quebec’s History program. Thursday the Gazette published two excellent articles by Marian Scott about the reactions to the Education Minister’s flip-flop on his previous commitment to put the controversial new History curriculum on hold, and the decision of the English School Boards to implement this curriculum:
By Robert Green | Published by Montreal Gazette June 1, 2016
Earlier this year, Quebecers learned of a reform to the province’s history curriculum that provoked a great deal of concern. Not only was the role of Quebec’s anglophone community reduced to that of a comic book villain intent on impeding progress, indeed the contributions of all of Quebec’s minority groups seemed to be systematically excluded. There was nothing about the anglophones who participated in the 1837 rebellions or organized some of Quebec’s first labour strikes; nothing about the struggles against discrimination faced by Jewish and Italian immigrants; nothing about the contributions of more recent immigrants, like the Vietnamese or Haitian communities.
However, perhaps the most significant omission had to do with the First Nations. This reform was being developed at the very moment the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made its recommendations. Specifically the TRC recommended that all levels of government “Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” Quebec had a real opportunity to be the first province to implement the recommendation. Instead, by ignoring the TRC and refusing to engage in any meaningful consultation with First Nations communities, Quebec instead chose to reinforce the colonial pattern of relations that has existed for hundreds of years.
By Robert Green | Published February 16, 2015 by The Montreal Gazette
Earlier this month, an extensive study commissioned by Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport confirmed what Quebec’s teachers have known for over a decade: The famous “pedagogical reform” that was supposed to revolutionize the way students are taught in Quebec is a failure.
The study, which followed nearly 4,000 students, compared two cohorts of post-reform students with one that entered high school in 2004 just before the reform was implemented.
The results paint a portrait of an ongoing policy disaster.
Despite having added 50 hours of instruction in Mathematics and 150 hours of first-language instruction, results in both core subjects are significantly down.
Pascal / Montreal Gazette Feb. 7, 2015
Despite the fact that the reform was intended to raise the dismally low graduation rates of boys and at-risk students, these rates have instead seen significant declines for both groups.
Perhaps most worrisome for Quebec’s anglophone community is the fact that students in Quebec’s English school system were also identified by the study as one of the groups that saw a significant decline in graduation rates.
In other words, the millions of dollars spent developing and implementing this reform have been an utter waste of public funds.
La réforme au secondaire est un échec. Ce n’est pas un journaliste qui le dit ni un enseignant frustré ou un syndicat militant qui tape sur le clou de la réforme, mais une équipe de chercheurs qui a déposé un rapport étoffé de 113 pages.
Le mot échec n’apparaît pas dans le rapport et le directeur de la recherche, Simon Larose, ne l’a pas prononcé quand je lui ai parlé, mais le constat est là, incontournable, gros comme un éléphant dans un magasin de porcelaine.
L’étude est sérieuse, elle n’a pas été griffonnée sur le bord d’une table. Les six chercheurs de l’Université Laval ont suivi 3724 jeunes et 3913 parents de 2007 à 2013. Ils ont étudié trois cohortes: la première a échappé au vortex de la réforme et a commencé son secondaire en 2004; les deux autres étaient composées d’enfants de la réforme qui ont commencé leur secondaire en 2006 et 2007. Les chercheurs ont comparé les cohortes à l’aide de questionnaires, de tests et d’examens. Du sérieux.
La Presse is reporting today that Couillard Liberals are planning a massive education reform that includes the abolition of school boards, reduction of private school subsidies by 50%, reduction in the number of ministry exams and the creation of a professional order by teachers.
An abbreviated version of this op-ed appeared in the Montreal Gazette September 14, 2011 under the title “A reform that will miss its target – No child left behind was a disaster for the U.S. education system. Why should Quebec go down a similar road?”
In the spring of 2008 Jean Charest’s Liberals passed a reform of Quebec’s Education Act entitled Bill 88. Though the bill had far reaching implications for Quebec’s public schools there was relatively little public debate and discussion about its content.
This past spring one of the major implications of this bill became clear as the governing boards of each of Quebec’s public schools were required by the MELS (Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport) to sign what is being called a “Management and Educational Success Agreement”. These agreements identify numerous objectives for the school with specific measurable targets such as “to increase graduation rates from 83% to 86%” or “the success rate for mathematics 404 will increase from 42% to 45%”. Some of these performance indicators are determined by the school board while others are determined by the schools.
So what could possibly be wrong with asking schools to set such measurable targets? The answer to this question lies south of the border where the use of such performance indicators has been at the heart of a revolution in public education that began with George Bush’s 2001 “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) legislation and has been accelerated by Barack Obama. The appeal of this revolution is in the simplicity of its message: use high-stakes standardized testing to hold teachers and schools accountable for the success or failure of their students. Reward success; punish failure. This means offering both the carrot of additional funding or ‘merit-pay’ (often in exchange for union-protected job security) and the stick of threatened school closure or loss of employment.
A slightly edited version of this op-ed appeared in the Montreal Gazette April 14, 2011
The English Language Arts (ELA) program has long been considered a ‘core’ academic subject for students in Quebec’s English School Boards. This is for very good reason. Strong literacy skills are recognized as key to improving students’ future employment prospects as well their ability to engage with their world creatively and participate fully in our society’s democratic institutions. The lowering of standards in the ELA program therefore has grave implications not only for individual students but also for society as a whole. Sadly after five years in the teaching profession, I am firmly of the opinion that such a lowering of standards is occurring in Quebec’s English schools and that the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS) is entirely to blame.
Initially the infamous ‘reform’ to Quebec’s curriculum was presented as a move away from the rote learning that had occurred in the past and a move towards a more constructivist methodology that recognizes that learning is a much more active and dynamic process than the simple memorization of facts. When I first heard this as a student at McGill, this was music to my ears; however, upon entering the profession I soon began to lose this enthusiasm.