The Education Reform
Questions and Answers
for Parents and the General Public
September 2000 marked the
launch of a major reform of preschool, elementary and secondary
education. The resulting changes in Québecs school
system have raised a host of questions. This document addresses
the main concerns expressed by the general public and the
education community. The following questions and answers will
give you a better idea of what the reform is really about.
In the weeks to come, further queries and responses will be
added to this site. Please feel free to e-mail
or fax in (418-528-2080) any remaining questions you may have,
specifying Questions and answers on the reform as the subject
of your message or fax. For information on topics other than
the reform, contact the Centre
d'information multimédia by e-mail.
education system is one of the best in the world and those
who make it work can be commended for their professionalism
and commitment. If the system now needs improvement, it is
because the world as experienced by todays youth is
far different from the one their parents and grandparents
knew. As is the case with numerous other education systems
around the world, our system has had to adjust to the realities
of the new century that is taking shape. Things have changed,
society has evolved and new expectations have emerged. All
partners in Québecs education system agree on
the importance of ensuring that our schools are more responsive
to the needs of young people and better able to help them
reform is the result of lengthy reflection and public consultations
spanning several years, is based on the latest research in
the field of education as well as on the many pilot projects
conducted in Québec schools in recent years, and takes
into account the numerous proposals made during the Estates
General on Education that wrapped up in 1996. All this to
say that the reform is not just some trendy project, let alone
something that was thrown together hastily and haphazardly.
Although not entirely new, the principles of the reform, are,
according to those who developed the Québec Education
Program and to countless observers, the best way of preparing
our children for the challenges ahead.
material based on the former programs of study is valid for
the next two years. Teachers are free to use any parts of
the material that are appropriate by adapting it to fit the
student-centred and competency-based approach called for by
new instructional material will be approved by the Minister
as it is received from the publishers commissioned to supply
The new Preschool Education Program came into effect in September
2000. The general objective of the program is to enable students
to develop competencies related to self-knowledge, living
in society and communication. The children take part in learning
situations drawn from their world of play and their life experiences
that prepare them to be active and thoughtful students.
schools are required to deliver the programs prescribed by
the MEQ. This means that implementation of the reform is occurring
simultaneously in private and public schools.
The important point here is that September 2000 is the starting
point for reform rather than its culmination. In the two years
leading up to the reform, the MEQ organized a number of province-wide
meetings that brought together several hundred people delegated
to provide support for implementation of the reform from every
region, as well as training sessions for resource persons
within the education community. In addition, the schools were
given the opportunity to examine the draft version of the
new programs, and the final version was available to them
new Preschool Education and Elementary Cycle One (Grades 1
and 2) programs became compulsory in September 2000.
The MEQ is well aware that a reform of such scope is not without
its challenges, notably as regards teaching methods and the
professional development of teaching staff. However, the reform
can be introduced gradually and can be tailored to the specific
needs of the school concerned. The timeframe for gradual implementation
is September 2000 to June 2001; full implementation
is slated for the 2001-2002 school year.
activities were carried out in universities in order to provide
prospective teachers with information on the reform, including:
and structured activities within education departments and
on the bases for the reform
groups on the changes to existing programs of study
meetings aimed at introducing students and professors to
the content of the new programs
activities made it possible for professors to give their students
an overview of the main features of the reform, notably, those
affecting programs of study.
August 2000, the MEQ consulted the stakeholders concerned
on the guidelines regarding the initial training of the next
generation of teachers. The final version of the ministerial
document will be forwarded to the universities at the end
of the year.
learning is more consistent with the psychology of children
and the stages of their development. Students have more time
to master program content and to carry out more complex tasks.
Cycle-based learning should also help break down the classroom
isolation that teachers feel and promote cooperative teaching.
Cycle-based teaching is also an invitation to assume collective
responsibility for teaching and to mobilize the entire school
team under the banner of that institutions educational
may happen, but not necessarily. School administrators and
the teaching staff work together to determine whether in the
particular situation in question, having a teacher remain
with the same group is the best way of achieving the pedagogical
goals that have been set.
of September 2000, students in Elementary Cycle
One (Grades 1 and 2) will take the following subjects:
(language of instruction), in French schools
Education OR Catholic Religious and Moral Instruction OR
Protestant Moral and Religious Education
and English (language of instruction), in English schools
Education (Music, Visual Arts, Drama or Dance)
Education and Health
of September 2001, students in Elementary Cycle
Two (Grades 3 and 4) will take the following subjects
in addition to the above:
Geography and Citizenship Education
in French schools
subjects for Elementary Cycle Three (Grades 5 and 6)
will be the same as for Elementary Cycle Two and will be introduced
in September 2002.
Elementary Cycle One, two extra hours per week have been added
for these subjects. This means that the number of hours allocated
for English is now 7 instead of 9, and 7 instead
of 5 for Mathematics.
are no changes in the number of hours allocated for Moral
Education, Catholic Religious and Moral Instruction or Protestant
Moral and Religious Education in September 2000. However,
new orientations were proposed by the Minister of Education
in a bill adopted in the National Assembly on June 14,
2000. Changes in the time allocation for these subjects are
forthcoming and could be introduced as of September 2001.
second language, begins in Elementary Cycle One (Grade 1).
Time allocation for this subject is determined by the governing
board, but must be sufficient to enable students to acquire
the competencies prescribed by the program.
report card is a document that provides parents with information
about their childs academic progress. In a competency-based
program, the purpose of this information is also to describe
the process used to achieve the outcomes observed. In other
words, evaluation is an ongoing process concerned with ways
of doing things as well as with the results of these choices.
will continue to receive report cards on their childs
progress for each subject on a regular basis. The shift from
traditional report cards with grades to another kind of achievement
report will be phased in gradually. Parents could be given
a sampling of the various assignments and other material produced
by their child (portfolio, class diary, logbooks, etc.), which
would give them a good idea of how their child is faring and
to what extent the required competencies are being acquired.
is important to remember that the creation of governing boards
is directly aligned with one of the reforms goals, which
is to give schools more autonomy. Governing boards, composed
of equal numbers of parents and school staff, are empowered
to make schools "learning communities" where decisions
are arrived at collectively by pooling the abilities and skills
of the stakeholders concerned.
virtue of its powers and functions, a governing board helps
implement the reform, primarily by adopting, overseeing and
evaluating the schools educational project, which draws
from the salient features of the reform and converts them
into orientations, priorities and competencies.
boards are responsible for approving the approach proposed
by the principal for implementation of the basic school regulation.
They also approve the overall approach proposed by the principal
for the teachers enrichment or adaptation of the programs
of study established by the Minister, as well as for the development
of local programs of study to meet the students specific
help governing boards carry out this mandate, a number of
school boards offer training sessions and make various resources
available. The MEQ regional offices as well as other organizations
representing governing board members also provide support.
A MEQ Web site <www.mels.gouv.qc.ca/conseils> features information on the
various resources, a discussion group and interactive access
to answers concerning the composition, operation and powers
and responsibilities of governing boards.
really. Even though changes have occurred, the goal of instruction
in elementary schools is still to enable students to develop
basic skills, primarily in their language of instruction and
in mathematics, but also in history and science. The role
of parents is to support their children in the learning process
and to encourage them to learn. Its up to parents to
provide a family setting conducive to academic success. In
concrete terms, this includes making sure that children have
a place where they can work productively and ensuring that
they have the material they need. It also involves choosing
the best time for doing homework.
most important thing of all is to keep a close eye on the
homework and studying that are assigned.
who have questions or concerns about homework or, for that
matter, about the new programs, can talk to fellow parents
or to their childs teacher. Some schools and school
boards organize information sessions for parents. We would
advise parents to keep abreast of all these issues and to
attend any meetings organized by the school or school board
for these purposes.
year, sixteen schools across Québec, including three
English schools and two private schools, field-tested the
Québec Education Program for Elementary Cycle One.
The aim of the experiment was to assess how realistic the
proposed practices were and to determine which conditions
would allow system-wide enactment of the reform to occur as
seamlessly as possible. The experience was very positive.
A report is due to be tabled shortly, and the main recommendations
will be sent to the schools and school boards concerned.
far, the results show that school personnel are very supportive
of the reform and that student motivation is up. Cycle Two
pilot projects will continue into 2000-2001, with a view to
implementing the reform the following year.
the first few years of school are crucial to a child's education,
it was only logical that the Reform should first be implemented
at the preschool and elementary levels.
of the new curriculum for preschool and the first two years
of elementary school (now known as Elementary Cycle One) began
in September 2000. The implementation of the Reform will
continue until the year 2003 at the elementary level
and be carried out at the secondary level from 2003 to 2006.
1 and 2 (Cycle One)
3 and 4 (Cycle Two)
5 and 6 (Cycle Three)
will be implemented at the secondary level from 2003 to 2006.
I, II and III (Cycle One)
IV and V (Cycle Two)
basic concepts that will help you better understand the Reform
students and parents will have to become familiar with a number
of concepts that underlie the new Québec Education
Program. An overview of these concepts is provided below.
approach is now being used in the schools. This means
that through classroom learning, students are to acquire two
types of competencies: subject-specific and cross-curricular
competencies are those that students acquire in studying and
mastering the topics related to a particular subject area
such as English, mathematics or the arts. As a result, students
will continue learning basic skills such as reading, writing,
oral expression and arithmetic.
competencies are related to the following four areas:
development: (e.g. learning how to solve a problem by taking
part in a group project)
methods: (e.g. learning how to do research and to plan their
and social development: (e.g. doing a science experiment
that involves working as part of a team and sharing the
work while acknowledging each person's role)
(e.g. using the appropriate terms when giving an oral presentation)
competencies are acquired in all subjects and in all school
activities. Once they have used these competencies in different
contexts, children will be able to apply them in other situations
and in other ways. These competencies will be developed in
situations related to the students' everyday life.
of having fun while learning may seem rather strange to those
who believe that you cannot really learn without hard work.
However, new educational methods have shown that a stimulating
environment can help students learn more effectively. If children
have fun while learning and find school more enjoyable, they
will be even more eager to learn. This does not mean that
hard work is no longer required. All learning involves commitment,
discipline and perseverance. What has to change is our attitude
towards hard work.
cannot develop competencies without acquiring knowledge. They
develop the tools that will help them to deal with complex
situations and become familiar with new concepts related to
subjects such as English and science. Upon leaving school,
students will have acquired knowledge that will be useful
to them in everyday life. Schools must ensure that students
have the basic knowledge they will need to function in society.
learning, students must carry out tasks that involve learning
new things by applying what they already know.
an example of project-based learning:
students are to prepare for a visit to the zoo.
research to find the exact names of different animals and
become familiar with their way of life, the food they eat,
an oral presentation describing what they have discovered
the different species of animals
provides students with challenges that will make them aware
of the importance and usefulness of what the teacher is asking
them to do. Nevertheless, the Reform is not based solely on
one educational approach, since a project is not an end in
itself. Lecture style teaching will still have its place,
but increasingly more use will be made of other approaches
involving greater participation on the part of the students.
one of the educational approaches that teachers can use. Cooperative
learning is way of organizing educational activities that
involves having students support and help each other in developing
competencies and acquiring knowledge. With this learning approach,
students in a given class do not compete with one another,
but rather cooperate to carry out a task, plan an activity
or complete a project. As a result, students learn that certain
relatively complex large-scale projects cannot be successfully
carried out without enlisting the help of many different people
and coordinating their work.
may decide to use teamwork and project work,
or a cooperative learning approach to help students
develop competencies and acquire knowledge. This does not
mean that teachers will always assign project work or that
the students will always be in cooperative learning situations.
These approaches must be used appropriately; no one approach
provides a universal solution.
project work requires time, students can learn much more
and acquire longer-lasting knowledge if they concentrate
on situations that motivate them, instead of skimming over
a large number of topics and receiving only lecture style
instruction. The goal is to motivate students, to get them
to take an interest in school and to encourage them to play
an active role in their education.
involves a return to the essentials, to the basic subjects.
Teachers are called upon to adapt educational approaches in
order to make topics more accessible to their students. Teamwork
and project work can be extremely useful in this regard.
a year should be an exceptional measure. Educational research
has shown that repeating a grade does not usually help students
succeed and may even hamper their academic progress, not to
mention that it also has a negative impact on their self-esteem.
approach used over a two-year cycle offers a great deal of
flexibility. A student may not progress at the same rate in
every subject and may need more time to acquire certain competencies.
In the past, students who repeated a year and who had more
difficulty in a given subject were required to do all the
subjects for that grade level over again, which often had
an extremely negative effect on their motivation.
the competency-based approach will call for new ways of evaluating
the students' work and supporting them throughout the learning
end, all members of the school staff must work closely together
to determine whether students have developed the required
competencies. Their judgment in this regard will be based
on a set of observations compiled during the learning process
and not solely on the results of a few end-of-cycle exams.
With this information, school staff can provide a much more
accurate picture of the students' progress and of what they
have actually learned, and will be able to make the necessary
adjustments along the way to help the students improve.
education by two-year cycles gives teachers enough time to
achieve the objectives in question and makes it possible for
students to receive the support they need to overcome any
progress report provides an overall assessment of the student
and, if necessary, is used to determine transitional and support
measures that will help him or her move on to the next cycle.
a competency-based approach makes it possible to take into
account each student's situation, to closely monitor the rate
at which he or she learns and to design activities during
the learning process that reflect his or her progress.
cycles are more in keeping with the actual learning rates
of students; they make it possible to avoid repeating a year
and take into account the needs of students whose difficulties
call for long-term remedial instruction. Teachers will be
responsible for providing this type of instruction and, in
this regard, will be assisted by a specialist (e.g. special
education teacher), if necessary.
all. In fact, the new curriculum gives teachers the necessary
leeway to enrich the course content for more gifted students
when required. The time set aside for helping weaker students
with their basic learning can also be used to provide the
more gifted students with more challenging assignments.
Social Sciences, for example, students are asked to study
the establishment of a society in a given territory, to see
how this territory led people to dress, eat and get organized
in a certain way, and to examine how this territory changed
as a result of what these people did. Two societies will be
examined in the basic Social Sciences program (Cycle Two).
The teacher can have the more gifted students study two societies
at more than one point in history. Students will therefore
develop a better understanding of the world in which they
live and increase their knowledge.
of the arts embraces four subjects: drama, visual arts, dance
and music. Two out of the four subjects are compulsory in
elementary school. The school and its governing board determine
which two arts subjects will be taught and the amount of time
that will be designated for them. In Elementary Cycle One,
a total of five and a half hours per week are to be shared
among two arts subjects and physical education and health.
It is expected that students will be able to acquire the learnings
prescribed in the program within this time frame. In Cycles
Two and Three, the Basic School Regulation provides for nine
and a half hours per week, to be shared among the two arts
subjects and the following subjects: physical education and
health, geography, history, citizenship education, and science
is a special focus of the new curriculum and is studied throughout
elementary and secondary school. In Cycle One of elementary
school, there is no program per se in geography, history and
citizenship education, but students learn specific things
related to this subject area within the context of all their
school activities. Geography, History and Citizenship Education
programs will be taught in Cycles Two and Three.
this is the goal of the Reform. Until now, academic programs
focused on subject-specific knowledge and on the students'
ability to memorize information. The new curriculum is designed
to make school learning more viable and durable so that students
will be better prepared for real-life situations. This should
also help increase their motivation and make school activities
Even though changes have occurred, the goal of elementary
school education is still to enable students to acquire knowledge
and develop basic competencies, primarily in their language
of instruction and in mathematics, but also in other subjects.
The parents' main role is to support their children throughout
the learning process and encourage them to learn. It is up
to parents to provide a family setting conducive to academic
success. In concrete terms, this includes making sure that
children have a place where they can work productively and
ensuring that they have the materials they need. It is also
involves choosing the best time for doing homework and keeping
a close eye on their child's schoolwork.
who have questions or concerns about homework or, for that
matter, about the new curriculum can consult information brochures
(hyperlien ici) prepared by the Ministère de l'Éducation,
talk to fellow parents or ask to meet with their child's teacher.
Schools and school boards organize information sessions for
parents. Parents should keep abreast of what is going on and
attend any meetings organized by the school or school board
in this regard.
are professionals who are responsible for guiding students
through the learning process. Students can learn according
to a project-based approach or any other method, but teachers
are always there to supervise them. Discipline and rigour
still play a role in any learning process.
work is one approach among others that encourages students
to take responsibility for their own education. The focus
is on getting students to function as independently as possible.
It has been observed that students who are motivated to carry
out projects and who are involved in their own development
find school more enjoyable and usually cause fewer disciplinary
on October 30, 2000