Students call for CEGEP changes

A student association is calling on the Quebec government to adjust the CEGEP curriculum to better suit the needs of students who have gone through the province's elementary and high school reforms.

Those entering college this year 1st cohort to have undergone education reforms

Léo Burean-Blouin, president of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, says CEGEP teachers must adjust their teaching to help those who studied under Quebec's reformed elementary and high school curriculum. ((CBC))
A student association is calling on the Quebec government to adjust the CEGEP curriculum to better suit the needs of students who have gone through the province's elementary and high school reforms.

The first cohort of students to have studied exclusively under the series of education reforms introduced in 2000 started their first CEGEP semester Monday.

CEGEP is Quebec's system of post-secondary colleges where students study for two years after Grade 11 before going on to university or a vocational trade.

The Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, which represents CEGEP students across Quebec, submitted eight recommendations to the Education Ministry for specific adjustments to academic programs and course material that would help ease the transition to CEGEP for the new students.

The recommendations include adding algebra to the first-year math curriculum and a second advanced French course that would cover various literary genres — both areas that the reform cohort was not adequately exposed to, the federation said.

Students who studied under the reforms should not be looked at as guinea pigs, the federation said at a news conference on Monday, but teachers must recognize that they have acquired their knowledge in a different way than previous generations.

"Students in the reform cohort are more autonomous than their predecessors and more comfortable in certain domains," said the federation's president, Léo Bureau-Blouin.

The reform curriculum, implemented across all grades in elementary and high school, tried to get away from rote learning and strict memorization of facts and focused more on group-based learning, problem-solving and self-evaluation.

It integrated certain otherwise separate subjects in order to tap into children's strengths — using their talent in art or music, for example, to help them master concepts in other subject areas.

The reforms were widely criticized by parents and teachers for being too vague, lax and not strict enough when it came to grading and testing.

If the CEGEP system is adjusted to help the reform cohort, the students will easily integrate into college-level courses, Bureau-Blouin said.

Newly appointed Education Minister Line Beauchamp said she's willing to modify certain courses and teaching practices over the course of the next few years if students educated under the reform don't perform as well as others.

Students and teachers worried

Gabriel Balaban is entering Montreal's Vanier College this year as part of the first cohort to graduate under the new reforms, but he doesn't feel ready for CEGEP.

"I have two older brothers, and I feel as though their education was much better than ours, and they [were] more prepared for CEGEP," said Balaban.
Students start a new CEGEP school year on Monday at Collège Ahuntsic in Montreal. ((CBC))

Another new student, Luay Sobie Sultan, said his teachers never explained to him how different his education would be from that of other students.

"Our teachers were a bit confused about [the reform] ... so we were confused," said Sultan.

Many teachers are also worried about the new cohort.

"Our colleagues in the high schools are telling us, 'We'll see. We'll see that the students coming our way will arrive and won't be as well prepared as previous classes'," said Jean Trudelle, the president of Quebec's Federation of Teachers.

Heather Robb teaches English at Vanier College.

"On the one hand, we want to help them through the transition, but on the other hand, we have to think about where they are going," said Robb.

"Part of me thinks it should be a bit of a shock to them; it should be a wake up call."