Quebec Education System
(This is going to be long, bear with me)
Canada’s education system is for the most part really similar to the States’. But, since education is a provincial thing, some provinces *ahem*QUEBEC*ahem* have a very different system. So I’ll try to explain it briefly:
The school year usually goes from mid- to late-August and ends towards the end of June. The date varies, but all schools are out before June 24, which is the Fête Nationale (kinda like Quebec Day, if you will). It’s mandatory between the ages of 6 and 16.
School isn’t mandatory before Grade 1 but students can attend prematernelle (Pre-Kindergarten) if they turn 4 years old before September 30. Sometimes it is offered in an actually primary school, or in a daycare. If it is offered in an actual school, the pre-K students have to have their own separate building instead of sharing with the rest of the elementary students.
Maternelle (Kindergarten) is also not mandatory, but the majority (98%) of parents send their kids to Kindergarten anyways. Usually, it’s in the same school the kids will be attending for elementary. To be able to go to Kindergarten, the kid has to be 5 years old by September 30.
Also known as primary school, it goes from Grade 1 to 6. Towards the end of primary (in grade 4 and 6), students have to pass ministry exams for French, English and Math. Grades in primary school are usually marked in percentages.
High school is commonly known in French as le secondaire (Secondary school). Unlike in the States and the rest of Canada, high school lasts for five years, from Sec. 1 to 5 (grades 7 to 11). There are no middle schools in the province, and students typically attend the same school for five years. Some high schools offer IB programs and AP classes, but not all. In the last two years of high school, students present ministry exams for History, Science, and Math (Sec. 4), and English and French (Sec. 5). The result of these tests, along with part of the grades of those two years are used to determine whether or not they get accepted into cegep. Grades in high school are usually marked in percentages.
Cegep is Quebec’s own little invention
that is a pain
in the ass if you want to study outside the province. The name was originally
an acronym for Collège
d'enseignement général et professionnel (General and professional
teaching schools, is the closest English translation), but it has since then
become a word of its own. Cegeps are all public, although there are some
private schools that serve the same function, and were implemented in the late
It can last two or three years, and it basically prepares students for university. There are two types of cegep paths: pre-university, which is two years, or career programs, which are three. Students can choose what they want to study, with the most common programs being social science, science, and communications. As the names suggest, pre-university programs are designed for students wishing to continue their studies in university, while career programs usually don’t require further studies. In some cases, however, students in career programs can continue on to university if they wish to do so. Aside from program-related courses, students need to take common classes: English, French, Phys Ed., Humanities, and a complimentary class (basically a class outside your program, for example, a physics class is you’re studying social science).
Cegep has a grading system similar to a GPA called the R score (or Cote R in French), but with a scale going from 0 to 50. However, most students get a score between 15 and 38. Just to give an idea of the value of the numbers, students need at least at 35 R score to get into medicine and law. The R score can’t be calculated by any one individual, as it requires information that isn’t available to everyone: a student’s grades, the class average, standard deviation, as well as past grades from high school, etc. It is calculated by the Ministry of Education, and is the subject of many complaints by people who do not find it is a fair way to evaluate students.
Like high school, university in Quebec is shorter than in other parts of Canada and the States. In fact, most people can complete their bachelor’s degree in three years. Students from other provinces and countries, however, have four years of university, as they did not go to cegep. If a Quebec student wishes to go study in another province, they can choose to do one year of cegep to make up for their lack of Grade 12, and then do four years of university, or they can complete their cegep studies and do three years, as their cegep courses are usually equivalent to introduction courses in other universities.
Admission to university is very often ONLY based on a student’s R score. Unlike in the States, where the application process can be very long, in Quebec, applying to a university can be done in an evening (no joke, I applied to three in about three hours). Few programs, such as law and medicine, require letters of intent and recommendations from teachers. More artistic programs may require a portfolio. Most of the time, all the university requires is a transcript of the student’s grade, which is provided by the cegep. The deadline for applications is almost always March 1, but students that apply earlier can receive their acceptance letter before that date.
McGill University is without a doubt the most famous one in the province, however, Quebec boasts a wide variety of universities. In fact, just this year, Montreal (the biggest city of the province) has been named the best student city in the world. It has six universities, the highest in North America, and two of the three English universities are located there.
Since the 1970s, Quebec has a law regulating the language of education. It’s officially known as the Charter of the French Language, but everyone calls it Bill 101 (Loi 101). In fact, Bill 101 regulates the use of the French language in all aspects, not just education, but we’ll focus on the part that concerns education for now. This law only applies to permanent residents and citizens and it states that everyone must attend French school UNLESS:
- Their mother or father has completed the
majority of their studies in Canada in English;
- The student has completed the majority of
their studies in English in another Canadian province.
The main reason for this law is that, prior to the 1970s, many immigrants would choose to send their children to English schools instead of French ones because they thought it was more convenient to learn English than French. However, the government did not like that, and after several attempts at restricting people’s ability to choose, they announced that the only official language of the province was French and instated the Bill 101.
However, it is worth noting that this law only applies to primary and secondary education. Students can choose to study in either English or French in cegep and university. In 2013, there were attempts to extend the law until cegep, but it fortunately never passed.
Aside from Bill 101, learning a second language is mandatory in elementary and high school. In French schools, the second language is English, and vice versa. Previously, English was taught starting in Grade 3, but, if I’m not mistaken, it now starts in Grade 1. Some schools offer different levels of English classes for students that may have a higher level than others. For example, some students from Francophone families will not speak a word of English before attending elementary, and therefore are placed in the lowest level, while other students, such as Anglophones and some immigrants might already speak it at home and will be placed in a higher level. In English schools, French is taught much more intensively, and it is common for students to study several subjects in French. As a results, Anglophone children are among the most bilingual in the province. The teaching of a second language is mandatory until the end of cegep.
Curiously, many parents with the possibility to send their children to English schools do not, as they believe that their children will be more proficient in both languages if they study one at school and practice the other at home. This however, has led to some English schools closing their doors due to a lack of students.
Until fairly recently, many schools taught religion as a class. Usually, this meant that Catholic students would have a class about religion, while the rest of the students had an ethics class. This was changed in 2008, when the ministry implemented ERC classes (Ethical and Religious Cultures) in primary and secondary schools. However, some religious schools remain, all of the private.
NOTE: I know the proper term for the schools are francophone schools (not French) and anglophone schools (not English). However, it’s easier to read this way, so I left it like that.
Please let me know if I missed something! :)