March 2012 Archives

Quebec's Education Reform

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In the year 2000, the Ministry of Education rang in the new millennium with a whole new way of educating Quebec children. In the mid-1990s, Pauline Marois, then the Education Minister, had noticed a high dropout rate and decided to see what could be done to improve that, so a series of studies were undertaken, and the Quebec Education Program, colloquially known as "the Reform," was born (Guimont). The Reform was implemented gradually, starting in preschool and elementary in 2000, Grades 7-8 in 2005 and Grades 9-11 between 2006 and 2009. Junior high school teachers began seeing children who had been educated exclusively under the Reform in 2005, senior high school teachers in 2007. The first cohort of students who were educated entirely under the Reform are now in their 2nd year of CEGEP (Branswell).

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Last year I had the privilege of hearing a talk delivered by a young man at the secondary school where I teach. Shaun Perrier has Asperger Syndrome, and he gave the talk - on his own initiative - to his peers at the school, to let them know what it is like to have Asperger's. The syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction due to an inability to catch nuances in others' words and body language, and a similar lack of nuance of their own - a lack of facial expression, and speaking in a monotonous or overly formal manner. It is also characterized by a need to have a highly controlled environment, with a fixation on repetitive routines or rituals, as well as clumsiness. I was teary-eyed listening to the struggles that Shaun had gone through in his life and deeply impressed by how much he had overcome, and my heart went out to him and others like him, who deserve every opportunity to succeed that society can give them.

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