Quebec Studies

The Compromise on Educational Reform in Québec

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 72–81.

Abstract

The Compromise on Educational Reform in Québec Henry Milner 1 In Québec, education is a political preoccupation. Since the earliest days the province has jealously guarded its consti­ tutional prerogatives. The Quiet Revolution was in fact identi­ fied above all with the dramatic changes in education that it initiated. But one key element of the educational reforms of the sixties died stillborn, killed by a powerful coalition of con­ servative forces. Public education in Québec—though this may soon change—is still locally controlled by "denominational" school boards, one network for Catholics and another for Pro­ testants. While the system has been able to adapt at times to pressures from changing social environments, it continues to maintain artificial barriers between the two school communities and place power in the hands of powerful but often unrepre­ sentative groups. It was the long-felt need to remove these barriers that prompted attempts at reform these past twenty years, including the most recent, which is the subject of this essay. A Compromised Plan Near the end of his first mandate, Québec Premier René Lévesque appointed as Minister of Education Camille Laurin, the determined and controversial father of the Charter of the French Language. This appointment served notice that another phase of reform was imminent. But the plan drawn up by Laurin and his advisers in the year following the Parti Québécois' reelection in April 1981 was unexpectedly far-reaching. Pub­ lished in June 1982 as a white paper entitled The Quebec School: A Responsible Force in the Community, the plan aimed at replacing a public-education system based on denominational

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Milner, Henry