Montreal

Quebec plans stricter rules for home-schooled students

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says the modifications to the existing law will ensure students are taught a full range of subjects, such as history and science, as outlined in the provincial curriculum.

'All children in Quebec are entitled to the same opportunities to succeed,' education minister says

A Montreal police officer is seen here entering a suspected clandestine Hasidic school in 2016. The existing law, passed by the previous Liberal government, was drafted following controversy over Hasidic Jewish schools operating without the Education Ministry's knowledge or approval. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

The Quebec government wants to further tighten the rules for home-schooling children, two years after the previous government introduced its own measures to deal with a controversy surrounding Hasidic schools.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge says the changes proposed Wednesday to the existing law would ensure students are taught a full range of subjects, such as history and science, as outlined in the provincial curriculum.

The changes would also make it easier to track and evaluate students learning at home, he said. 

"All children in Quebec are entitled to the same opportunities to succeed, and those receiving home-schooling should not be an exception," Roberge said Wednesday.

Specifically, home-schooled children would be required to learn a subject in the same year as their peers in schools. Previously, as long as they learned the subject and passed testing, they could be taught it at any time.

They would also no longer have the option of alternative testing and will instead be required to take ministry exams.

Roberge wants the stronger regulations to be in place by the start of the next school year. The Education Ministry estimates 5,000 students would be affected.

The current law, passed in November 2017 by the former Liberal government, was drafted following controversy over Hasidic Jewish schools operating without the Education Ministry's knowledge or approval.

There was a sharp rise in home-schooling following a crackdown by the Quebec government on Hasidic schools.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said the proposed changes would ensure every child has a chance at an education. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Many of the Hasidic children enrolled in home-schooling programs still attend private schools, where they receive religious instruction. At home, they are taught standard subject matter. 

Premier François Legault was critical of the law when it was passed, saying there should be more detailed minimum requirements and rules around standardized testing. 

Liberal MNA Gaétan Barrette pointed out the plan comes a day before the CAQ is expected to table its secularism bill. He suggested both are likely to stir debate within the population.

"It is not by chance that it's coming out today," he said. 

A trial is scheduled for next year involving Yohanen and Shifra Lowen, former Hasidic Jews who claim the Quebec government didn't do enough to ensure they received a proper education. 

About the Author

Benjamin Shingler is based in Montreal. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Reach him by email at benjamin.shingler@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @benshingler.

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