The Quebec government does not approve of schools adding Grade 12 programs in light of Bill 96 and says it’s ready to make legislative changes to rein them in if deemed necessary.
In a statement issued Friday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said his ministry is keeping a close eye on any schools offering the programs.
“There is no question of our government tolerating a circumvention of the Charter of the French Language,” Roberge said. “We are prepared to make legislative changes if the situation requires it.”
Roberge’s comments followed reports in recent days about private schools in the Montreal area looking to add Grade 12 programs to allay fears over some of the changes Bill 96 will make to the province’s CEGEP system.
The programs, which are already offered in several private schools, most often allow students to obtain an Ontario secondary school diploma. Students can then skip CEGEP altogether and apply to universities the same way out-of-province students would.
Some schools have said they intend on adding the option to ease concerns about the new requirement to take an extra three CEGEP courses in French could hurt students’ grades and ultimately affect their chances of getting into the university of their choice.
Others have said they’re doing so in response to the law capping the total number of students allowed in English-language CEGEPs.
In an emailed response Friday, a spokesperson for Quebec’s Education Ministry said they’re monitoring the situation closely and will keep track of any of the schools offering the option.
Moreover, the ministry said it fears the idea of offering Grade 12 as an alternative sends “a very bad message” about Quebec’s French and English CEGEP system.
“The quality of these services is not regulated at all by Quebec laws, and Quebec does not award any diploma for these courses,” spokesperson Bryan St-Louis wrote.
“It is forbidden to promote these services, regardless of the educational institution, since they are not authorized by a competent minister and therefore cannot be mentioned on the institution’s permit.”
The ministry did not respond to questions Friday about what parameters it would implement around Grade 12 programs or how they would affect students already enrolled.
In an interview, Elazar Meroz, the director of studies at TAV College in Côte-des-Neiges, said the school will abide by any restrictions the ministry decides to enforce.
But he feels the school’s decision to now offer a Grade 12 program is perfectly legitimate within the current framework of the province’s educational system.
“We haven’t created anything revolutionary here. Grade 12 programs have been around in Quebec for many, many years and in various forms,” Meroz said.
“This is not a Quebec Ministry of Education-recognized course, but what these students need is a diploma that is recognized by the universities they’re applying to.”
The school’s decision to add the program is in no way an attempt to undermine the province’s attempt to strengthen the French language, Meroz added.
“The objective of this program is not to circumvent any of the linguistic objectives of Bill 96,” he said.
“The problem we’re facing is that once the caps are implemented, students who should be admitted to CEGEPs are not going to be able to be, simply because there are too many students applying.”
Joan Salette, owner and head of Kuper Academy in Kirkland, said she feels she owes it to her students to offer another option in light of the changes brought on by Bill 96.
Salette said the idea to add a Grade 12 program was already in the works, but the passing of the law hastened the school’s decision.
As for Roberge saying the government won’t tolerate anyone trying to circumvent the French language charter, Salette said that isn’t the case.
“That’s absolutely not what I’m trying to do,” she said. “I’m trying to integrate these students into Quebec, but also give them the best opportunities. Because they are top achieving students, and they will have top jobs in medicine, engineering, in law. And they will be here in Quebec if given the chance.”
Other private schools in the Montreal area have offered Grade 12 programs for years, with varying tuition fees. The cost per student will be about $18,000 at Kuper Academy and $14,000 at TAV College.
The changes to the CEGEP system brought on by Bill 96 will take effect in the 2024 academic year.
Contacted on Friday, both the English Montreal and Lester B. Pearson public school boards said they are not considering adding a Grade 12 option.
Kuper Academy to add Grade 12 classes, allaying fears of Bill 96
CEGEP students protest Bill 96: ‘It’s going to damage our futures’
Legault doubles down on decline of French as Bill 96 is signed into law