Quebec English CEGEPS left in the dark about Bill 96 changes

We haven’t had the consultation required to have a full understanding of some of the requirements that are in the bill," said John McMahon, Director General of Vanier College, of Quebec's Bill 96. Alyssia Rubertucci reports.

By Alyssia Rubertucci

Now that Quebec’s Bill 96 – the reform on French-language laws – is officially in effect, leaders of English colleges in Montreal say they’re left in the dark about how to apply the sweeping changes to the English CEGEP system.

“We haven’t had the consultation required to have a full understanding of some of the requirements that are in the Bill or the thinking that went behind it,” said John McMahon, Director General of Vanier College.

The colleges are supposed to implement more courses in French for all students, three if it’s their core courses or five if they are second-language courses. But a lot of questions remain.

“It’s not clear in terms of whether certain courses that make up existing programs will now become optional in order to make room for the additional requirements of Bill 96, whether more time will be added to programs, whether there will be funding for those additional programs,” said McMahon. “It’s not clear in terms of the impact on faculty. Will there be some programs’ courses that are no longer required?”


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There’s also concerns now that Francophone students will have to pass a French exit exam to graduate and will need to take French literature courses in order to do so.

“Who is going to teach these courses?” asked McMahon. “There’s already a shortage, a significant shortage in terms of French second-language teachers at the regular school level, the elementary and secondary level, and so increasing the demand for those kinds of teachers at this level will be a stressor that we will have to try and deal with.”

Another stressor? Capped enrollment. Bill 96 will limit the number of francophones and allophones that can enroll in the English system. The government says it’s to promote the French system, to keep the language going strong.

“We are not to blame for any so-called decline in French. And to target English colleges in this manner is completely inappropriate,” said McMahon.

These changes are supposed to come into effect by 2024.

“We had requested the implementation date to be pushed to 2025 to give sufficient time to work out all of those details, including opening up [the rules] in terms of opening up collective agreements, dealing with faculty and the implications and the impact it will have on their working conditions. But those requests and those recommendations have fallen on deaf ears, as have a lot of other recommendations that we have made as part of this process,” McMahon said.

A process which McMahon says he wishes college reps would’ve been a part of.

“They have understandably been reluctant to get involved in those kinds of discussions up until now because it was very much a political process that was driving the agenda,” said McMahon. “But now where we are both faced, the colleges and the ministry, with meeting the requirements of this Bill. We need to sit down, roll up our sleeves and have some fierce counsel discussions.”

Leaders of English CEGEPS are expected to meet with government reps on the matter next week, in hopes to get some clarity.

“Now we’re left with having to work out the details and working out those details will not be an easy process.”

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