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Long Road to Reform

Long Road to Reform: Restructuring Public Education in Quebec

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Long Road to Reform
    Book Description:

    The Long Road to Reform analyses attempts to change the sectarian nature of schooling in Quebec, focusing on the fate of the radical proposals advanced by the Parti québécois in their White Paper of June 1982. The then minister of education, Camille Laurin, proposed to reform the existing system of "confessional" school boards, with its separate networks of schools for Catholics and Protestants, replacing it with school boards divided along regional lines. Under this plan, individual schools would have had considerable organizational autonomy through councils composed of parent and teacher representatives. Widespread opposition to this proposal led to its eventual modification and to the substitution of a much scaled-down version of thse reforms, Bill 3, which was declared unconstitutional by the Superior Court of Quebec in May 1985.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6114-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    In Quebec, education is a political preoccupation. Since the earliest days the province has jealously guarded its constitutional prerogatives in this domain. Quebec’s modernization process, the Quiet Revolution, was identified above all with the dramatic changes in education that it initiated. But one key element of the educational reforms of the 1960s died stillborn, killed by a powerful coalition of conservative forces. Public education in Quebec is still locally controlled by “confessional” school boards, one network for Catholics and another for Protestants. While the system has been able to adapt at times to pressures from changing social environments, it continues...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Foundations of Public Education in Quebec
    (pp. 10-21)

    It would be foolish to attempt any kind of comprehensive historical survey of 200 years of Quebec education in one short chapter, nor would it serve any useful purpose. The intent here is far less ambitious: to identify those key historical developments that serve as a backdrop to the educational reforms of this generation.

    This period of reform constitutes the third stage in the evolution of Quebec education. The first, from the founding of New France until the middle of the nineteenth century, saw the slow and uneven development of the basic components of an educational system. The second stage...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Reforms Made and Missed
    (pp. 22-32)

    Post-war Quebec was the scene of a profound intellectual attack on the “ancien régime” in the name of modernization.¹ Not surprisingly, the system of education came in for a good share of the criticism. Under the leadership of Georges-Emile Lapalme, the provincial Liberal party in the 1950s became the main political vehicle of this challenge, attracting many of the leading intellectuals of the generation to its cause.²

    Their ideas formed the basis of Quebec’s first comprehensive party program, a blueprint for wide-ranging modernization of Quebec’s institutions. The main author of the key chapter on education was Paul Gérin-Lajoie, who was...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Conflicting Languages of Education
    (pp. 33-44)

    In ten years Quebec education had evolved remarkably. The French-Catholic system had, by and large, caught up to the English-Protestant system. Quebec children had access to a more complete education with better-trained teachers in up-to-date facilities. In the 1970s, school attendance among fifteen-year-olds had attained a highly respectable 97 percent.¹ Administering the system was a new and already quite powerful Ministry of Education, along with a network of 214 Catholic and 33 Protestant school boards elected by and serving the Catholic or Protestant population of a given geographical area.

    Had the religious and ethno-linguistic make-up of Quebec remained what it...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Cross and the Public School
    (pp. 45-59)

    Though the linguistic dimension of education preoccupied government in the 1970s, relegating other major educational reforms to the bottom of the legislative agenda, the confessional issue did not disappear. The battleground shifted from the legislature to the local communities most affected, grand reform schemes gave way to conflicts over specific schools and the election campaigns of the commissioners who administered them.

    The 1964 law creating the Superior Council of Education (CSE) sets out the basic relationship between the religious communities and the educational system. Through the regulations and pronouncements of its confessional committees, Protestant and Catholic, the CSE presided over...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Contending Forces
    (pp. 60-72)

    On the issue of educational reorganization, public opinion polls portrayed a population divided and unsure. Confusion was the natural result of the complex interplay between language, religion, and school-board structures. Constitutional ambiguities added to the uncertainty. But despite the wide public confusion on the issue, the political divisions that had formed around it were profound and constant. The constituencies that had emerged on either side of the question of educational reform in the 1960s developed and matured in the various rounds of the debate. This chapter surveys these contending forces as they poised for the next round of the battle....

  11. CHAPTER SIX Dr Laurin’s White Paper
    (pp. 73-86)

    Conservative Quebecers, and English-speaking Quebecers generally, were heartened by the events of 1980. In May, the Parti québécois government suffered a major setback in its referendum on sovereignty-association. Just under 60 percent voted “no,” a figure that seemed to spell certain doom for the party in the elections to follow. While many of the pq’s opponents still had misgivings about what they regarded as the crypto-nationalist views of opposition leader Claude Ryan, they were nonetheless persuaded that once the PQ was swept from office, Quebec would get back to “business as usual,” that the referendum – as well as Law...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Rough Ride for the Reform
    (pp. 87-101)

    This chapter reviews the debate that raged over the White Paper during the eight months after its release. Thousands of pages in Quebec’s daily and weekly newspapers were devoted to the proposals in articles, columns, editorials, letters to the editor, and advertisements. Innumerable hours on radio talk shows were spent on the subject. For the major participants, the debate was highly political. Groups ground their axes against those parts of the reform that threatened their interests. For many among them, the stakes were quite high. Hence the intensity of the reactions. Hence also the tendency of groups opposing specific provisions...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT A Government Besieged
    (pp. 102-115)

    On Wednesday, 8 June 1983, more than one year after the White Paper had gone the same route, Bill 40 won cabinet approval. The comprehensive law, comprising over 600 articles, was faithful to the overriding spirit of the White Paper. But only up to a point. For there were included significant compromises intended to placate the plan’s major critics. Yet, though the reform had become far less radical in content, it did not produce the desired consensus. In this chapter we look at the failure of Laurin’s attempt at achieving consensus through compromise.

    The vicissitudes of the White Paper, like...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Bill 40
    (pp. 116-131)

    Two events during the third week of June 1983 served notice to the government that its draft legislation would face rough going in the months ahead. On 13 June, electors went to the polls to select the members of the Montreal Island school boards. The elections took place under the cloud of the reform. Candidates could not be sure how much of their three-year term they would serve if elected, since the plan would restructure the entire school-board system and with it, their positions.¹

    The school boards, especially the two Protestant ones and the cecm, attempted to turn the vote...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 132-140)

    In so thoroughly revising Bill 40, Bérubé had fulfilled his mandate to put together an acceptable education reform plan. Thus, despite the government’s unpopularity, an educational reform bill was adopted and the legislative process initiated in 1982 was completed in 1984. The concessions in the final bill had created a sufficiently large grouping of powerful interests who stood to gain significantly more than they lost. These groups knew that if forced to withdraw this now-quite-moderate bill, neither this nor any other government would touch educational restructuring for many years.

    The major opponents of Bill 40, the Catholic boards and the...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 141-166)
  17. Index
    (pp. 167-170)