Liberal amendment to Bill 96 will severely affect Anglophone secondary students
In late March, Quebec Liberals proposed an amendment to the highly controversial Bill 96. The amendment would require Anglophone CEGEP students to take three core courses in French as well as cap the number of students who can access English CEGEPS regardless of population growth.
After pushback from the school system, post-secondary institutions, and parents, the Liberals attempted to take back the proposal, which was not accepted by other parties.
The student caps for English CEGEPs will limit their ability to offer certain programs as well as meet labour shortage needs in Quebec regions. It will also limit access to Francophone students who also take advantage of English CEGEPs.
Bill 96 also affects foreign national students as it caps their ability to access English school to only three years. It takes away their option to renew for additional years of schooling in English.
Quebec Liberals did not consult with CEGEPS, education experts or school boards before proposing the amendment.
Earlier this year, the Quebec Liberal Party released their five fundamental principles, two of which they did not respect in this amendment. The fourth principle states “The English-speaking communities have rights that need to be protected. Access to public services in English for those Quebec citizens cannot be a threat to the status of French in Quebec.”
The fifth fundamental principle for the Quebec Liberal Party was the importance of students being able to attend the post-secondary institution of their choice. Specifically the party’s website states “We must preserve the balance between access to these institutions for the English-speaking community and the possibility of Francophones attending the establishment of their choosing.”
Many people were concerned about three core courses in French. “Learning French and learning in French are two very different things,” said Wayne Daly, Chairman of the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB).
“Bill 96 will be detrimental to our students, to all English colleges, to our communities and to Quebec as a whole. The Bill will limit the abilities for English colleges to meet the needs of our students and the regions we serve,” said Nancy Beattie, Director at Champlain College, an English college outside Montreal, during the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) press conference. “Bill 96 puts students' success at clear risk.”
On April 27, the amendment was changed by the Liberal party. The amendment will no longer require Anglophone post-secondary students to take three core courses in French but instead replace some of their courses with French language classes.
English CEGEP students will now be required to take three additional French courses. These courses are in addition to the two French second-language courses that English GEGEP students must already take.
Pre-university programs at the CEGEP level are usually in four semesters. The three French courses will replace other courses that are required for the program that the student is enrolled in. There will be an option to take three core classes in French instead for English students.
The option to add three additional French language courses is only available to students who were allowed to study in English in primary and high school. Non-eligible students, such as Francophones and Allophones, will be required to take three core classes in French.
A big concern for educators is how it will be implemented with the teacher shortages, specifically the acute French teacher shortages, potential job losses of English teachers, students with special needs and with students completely unprepared for this change.
“French is often referred to as the second language but for a portion of our student population, for our Indigenous students, French is their third language. The success of this portion of the student population has been completely disregarded with this proposed legislation,” said Beattie.
Daly notes that although there have been some corrections to a small portion of the challenges, implementation is still a concern “The change is ambiguous and we still don’t know how this will be implemented. Why do English students have to take that many extra courses? They have yet to consult school boards or educators,” said Daly. “They are playing politics with Anglophone rights and students' education to get more votes; it’s not right.”
Education experts have expressed concern over the Liberal amendment and other aspects of Bill 96 as it pertains to students with special needs and supports. Stephanie Michaud, a Francophone, and mother of a child with special needs, started her daughter's education in the French system. Following her daughter's Autism diagnosis, she found the French system's approach to children with special needs was lacking. "I decided to switch to the WQSB, which takes a universal design inclusive approach, such as providing extra help in a regular classroom. I have no clue what this Bill will mean for her. Will they (special needs students) be excluded? The lack of consultation with our community simply represents the isolationist approach that is well entrenched in numerous Quebec institutions (French school boards and the health care system) when it comes to the autistic community in Quebec."