Thursday, June 3, 2010

English Education in Quebec continued

Yesterday's rumors about the new Liberal proposal for reforming Bill 104 and access to the English public school system were confirmed officially.  With the details, it is clear that the Liberals aimed to do as little as possible to represent the interests of their locked-in Anglophone voters while trying to minimize their exposure to the French nationalists.

So, what is the deal?
  • To be eligible for the English public school system, a kid has to go for three years to one of nine private English schools (my daughter goes to one of the nine) before applying for permission to attend public schools.
    • The time limit and the specification of the nine schools are aimed at limiting the development of bridging schools which existed in the past for just getting students into the public school system.
  • The three years would not be sufficient as the government would then go case by case, with the explicit instruction (as stated by the Minister of Education) to limit the number of "certificates" granted to as close to zero as possible.
    • The student would get 15 points for the three years but then would gain or lose points depending on whether they had siblings in French or English systems, what their parents' backgrounds might be, whether English is their genuine educational path (yes, nicely vague there), and so on.  
    • Good news--we would need to expand the Quebec bureaucracy some more, I think, to hire people who can say No in both official languages.  Yes, that is what Quebec needs--more government workers (Quebec's government, as I understand it, already employs more people than California's).
  • The self-interested key for my family is that it would not extend the Bill 101 restrictions to private school.
    • That is, my daughter can finish her education in a private non-subsidized English school.
    • But that is perhaps only temporary, as the Parti Quebecois urged for this "right" to be ended, so if the PQ wins an election in the next couple of years, we might have to scramble somehow.  
  • The Bill is covered in nationalist sauce:
    • The papers have vague references to the higher education places do more to protect French.  What this really means, I have no clue.  
    • It increases the fines for violating the language signage laws to $10k for a first offense.
    • It adds language to Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms asserting French as the official language and a "Fundamental aspect of its cultural patrimony and social cohesion."  It also says that every person has a right to receive education in French, whatever that means.

This will not give the English public schools much in terms of new enrollments, so they continue to shrink.  This also does not do much to address the PQ claim that this allows one to "buy a right."  It now makes that purchase three times more expensive than the old system.  And the case by case bias is the cover the Liberals use to say that money is not enough.  Thin cover indeed.

    The good news is that we can still tell hockey players thinking of playing with the Canadiens that they can get their kids into the private schools!
    So Canadiens free agents, business executives and other parents who can afford five-figure annual tuition fees for all of their otherwise ineligible children's primary education could still send them to English school. (Go, Habs kids, go - to Selwyn House and The Study.)
     The other fun twist to this was the Liberals insisting that the notwithstanding clause should not be used to deprive anyone of their rights.  Marois, the leader of the PQ, essentially said that it would be no big deal to invoke the notwithstanding clause and deny access to any kind of English education for immigrants. 

    So, in sum, the Liberals tried to do as little as possible, my family wins for the short term, but we have more to fear from a PQ election victory.  Oh, and more government spending and employment!

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