Quebec, Canada

Nathalie Crête
Mireille Gosselin
Denis Besner
Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES)

Overview of Education System

The education system in Québec offers a variety of free educational programs and services to the public, from kindergarten to university. The Ministère de l’Éducation, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche (MEESR) performs different roles at the various levels of education. At the preschool, elementary, secondary, and college levels, the MEESR develops programs and defines related content and standards. It also negotiates and ratifies province-wide collective agreements. At the financial level, it defines a normative framework and provides most of the necessary resources. At the university level, the MEESR promotes the advancement of teaching and research by providing universities with resources for operation and development while respecting their autonomy and fostering collaboration among various partners.

The Québec Education Program (QEP) for preschool, elementary school, and secondary school is based on the development of competencies, including cross-curricular competencies, referred to as such because they are put to use in the broad areas of learning that address major issues confronting young people and programs of study grouped into various subject areas. The QEP defines a competency as “a set of behaviors based on the effective mobilization and use of a range of resources.” One of the aims of a competency-based program is to ensure that knowledge serves as a tool for acting and thinking, which also is a form of action. Because competencies are complex and develop over time, they involve more than simply adding or juxtaposing certain elements, and students can improve their mastery of a competency throughout their academic career and beyond. The QEP also produces complementary documents to provide additional information about the knowledge that students must acquire and be capable of using in each year of elementary and secondary school.

The current preschool and elementary school programs came into effect in Québec schools in September 2000. The Secondary Cycle I program came into effect in September 2005, while the Secondary Cycle II program was implemented gradually between September 2007 and September 2009.

In the youth sector, which comprises preschool, elementary, and secondary education, educational services are provided from kindergarten to Secondary V (this includes vocational training). Preschool education in Quebec is for 5-year-olds and is full time; while it is not compulsory, most children are enrolled in preschool. Children with disabilities and those from disadvantaged areas may be admitted to preschool starting at age 4. Elementary education is divided into three 2-year cycles, and is compulsory. Secondary education comprises five years of studies divided into two cycles. Secondary Cycle One lasts two years and is a continuation of the Common Core education curriculum that all students are required to study starting in elementary school. Secondary Cycle Two lasts three years. School attendance is compulsory until the year in which students turn 16, which normally corresponds to Secondary IV.

In Québec, the public system is administered by 72 linguistic school boards: 60 of these are French, 9 are English, and 3 have special status (2 of which provide services primarily to aboriginal students). Private institutions, some of which are subsidized in part by the MEESR, also provide elementary and secondary education. The private school system accounts for 7 percent of elementary school students and 21 percent of secondary school students. Private institutions are subject to the same basic school regulations as public institutions, and must implement the official curriculum.

Languages of Instruction

In Québec, French is the official language and the language of instruction. Approximately 80 percent of the population of Québec is French-speaking. The English-speaking population, which accounts for approximately 9 percent of the population of the province, has access to a full network of English educational institutions, from preschool to university. There are 11 aboriginal nations in Québec; for 8 of these, education in the youth sector falls under federal jurisdiction, while for the other 3 it is the responsibility of the provincial government, or more specifically, the MEESR. Aboriginal students are taught in their first language for the first four years of elementary school.

Increased immigration has resulted in the arrival of large numbers of students whose first language is neither French nor English, especially in the greater Montréal area. These students attend French-language schools, and schools offer francization services and welcoming classes to meet their particular needs.