Quebec Studies

The Impact of Cultural Identity on Québéc Education

Quebec Studies (1986), 4, (1), 28–50.

Abstract

THE IMPACT OF CULTURAL IDENTITY ON QUEBECEDUCATION Linda S. Kahn Until the early 1960s the Quebecois had one of the highest dropout rates in Canada, with few children continuing in school beyond ninth grade. Since that time the Quebecois have implemented major structural changes in their society and educational system in the hopes of improving their disadvantaged status and eventually assuming complete economic and political control over Quebec. After 25 years of self-initiated social change and educational reform, the Quebecois have significantly improved their educational attainment and narrowed the oncedramatic attainment gap between themselves and the English Canadians in Quebec. Yet subtle differences persist. Eighteen percent of English Canadians currently enrolled in school in Quebec have attained some university studies and 10% have completed a Bachelors Degree. For the French Canadians, the figures are 11% and 6%, respectively.1 A far greater proportion of French than English are enrolled in the vocational-technical track at the secondary school and college level? In explaining these differences I have considered elsewhere the impacts upon schooling of such factors as education policy changes and the current state of the Quebec economy.3 These factors have played an important role in shaping Quebecois perceptions of schooling and their academic aspirations. Quebbcois parents and teachers in Vieux Rosemont continually criticize the changes in education structure and curriculum that they believe have led to increasing educational mediocrity and a drop in students' school performance. In addition, because a university or college degree in the humanities or social sciences is no longer the undisputed golden key to opportunity that it was ten years ago, Quebecois secondary school students openly question the economic advantage of a university education. Yet there is a third factor at work here: the issue of

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Kahn, Linda