From Academic Kids

fr:Système d'éducation québécois

The Quebec education system is governed by the Ministère de l'Éducation du Québec (Ministry of Education of Quebec). It has certain important differences from the systems of English Canada.


Primary & Secondary education

In structure, the first twelve years are much like those in the rest of Canada. Education begins with kindergarten (maternelle) and grades 1-6 as primary school (école primaire).

High school (école secondaire) is five years, called Secondary I-V or simply grades 7-11. High school students who complete Secondary V obtain the governmental Diplôme d'études secondaires (DES).

Language of instruction in Quebec schools is sometimes misunderstood. Under the Charter of the French Language, passed in 1977, all students are required to attend French-language schools. However, children meeting the following criteria may attend the publicly funded English-language schools:

  • children who have done most of their elementary or secondary studies in English elsewhere in Canada;
  • children whose father or mother did most of his or her elementary studies in English anywhere in Canada; and/or
  • children of Canadian citizens (Canada Clause) whose brother or sister did or is doing his or her elementary or secondary studies in English anywhere in Canada.

Note: the private schools have, until recently, been excepted from all this.

Religion in schools

Formerly, school boards were divided between Roman Catholic and Protestant (called confessional schools). The establishment of a confessional education system was confirmed when the Canadian confederation was created with the British North America Act of 1867 which granted power over education to the provinces. Article 93 of the Canadian Constitution made it unconstitutional for Quebec to change this system. Consequently, a constitutional amendement was required to operate the separation of the State and the Church in Quebec.

Many governments also failed in their attempts to create a Ministry of Education: Quebec had to wait until 1964 to get a modern education system. For more than 100 years, non-Catholic immigrants from outside Canada who settled in Quebec were not allowed to attend French Catholic schools. The Quebec Education Act of 1988 provided a change to linguistic school boards. This change has only recently finished being implemented. The secularization of education is however not yet complete. In 1997, a unanimous vote by the National Assembly of Quebec allowed for Quebec to request the Government of Canada to exempt the province from Article 93 of the constitution. It was passed by the Parliament of Canada Constitutional Amendment, 1999, (Québec).

The segregation of Catholic and Protestant public schools is still the norm in the 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 (along with nonreligious moral education) classes continued to part of the curriculum. In order to prevent court challeges by other religious groups wanting specialist religious education in schools the government invoked the notwithstanding clause. The clause expires after a maximum of 5 years. As of February 2005, the government of Premier Jean Charest hasn't made a final decision on whether or not to renew the clause. Any changes would take effect in the 2005/2006 school year.

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, but the tuition remains very high.

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 goes to a private high school. The figure is even higher in urban centers 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 state that by selecting only the brightest and most capable students and rejecting children with learning difficulties, private schools 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 teacher's unions. The debate over the subsidies has been going on for several decades.

Post-secondary education


Most students continue to CEGEP, or Collège d'enseignement général et professionel (general and professional education college). 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 professional degrees. Students completing CEGEP earn the Diplôme d'études collégiales. Like primary and secondary schools, both state-run and private CEGEPs exist.

The word CEGEP should legally be used to describe only the state-run post-secondary schools, where tuition is free, but in fact very little attention is paid to this distinction. 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. Unlike the state-run CEGEPs, the private post-secondary schools usually do not combine pre-university and vocational programs in one institution. About half offer pre-university and the other half offer vocational programs.


Primary school, secondary school, and CEGEP add up to 13 years of pre-university study, one more than other provinces. For this reason, most undergraduate university degrees in Quebec universities are only three years in length for Quebec students who have obtained a CEGEP diploma. Students from outside Quebec have this term supplemented by a freshman year at the beginning of their university career. University education is much like in other North American jurisdictions. In addition to private institutions, the government of Quebec has a network of universities in several Quebec cities, called the Université du Québec.

Quebec subsidizes post-secondary education and is known for the low cost of its university education; Montreal has four universities, and a greater percentage of its population are students than in any other large city in North America.

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