Giving Back Control of our Schools to Parents
The findings abound regarding the failures of our educational system, at our primary level and especially at the secondary level. These include high dropout rates, particularly with boys, low rate of high school graduation, a centralized bureaucratic system that is too often disconnected from reality, and a decrease in the accountability of principals. It’s a race to the bottom, with evaluation methods that do not encourage effort or reward individual success and the pursuit of excellence. Teachers are often unmotivated and disempowered, forced to replace proven traditional teaching methods by a bureaucrat-imposed curriculum. As we can see, the list is long…
Nevertheless, our schools are full of good school principals and of worthy teachers who want their students to succeed. But the current system does not recognize the merit of those whose pupils achieve significant progress while rewarding those who blindly follow the bureaucratic rules of the ministry.
To remodel or revitalize our education system, it is necessary to ensure that the needs of students and the constructive action of parents are at the heart of the schools. Parents and their children must be the primary and ultimate focus of managers of primary and secondary schools.
The Conservative Party of Quebec will increase the responsibilities of school boards to transform them into real boards of directors. We will also strengthen the role of principals so that they can fully exercise their leadership in teaching and administration.
The task of hiring and evaluating teachers, professionals and support staff will be given back to the school principals. Principals will negotiate the compensation of such personnel with their respective unions or directly with non-union personnel and may, in the context of a fair assessment, dismiss those who do not have the required skills. Schools will rent their premises from the Ministry or from other agencies or they can buy them. They will administer their buildings and the transportation required for their students. We aim to create autonomous schools, close to the population they serve, in a decentralized management context.
School Boards Abolished
School boards will be abolished. Property taxes will be reserved exclusively for municipalities. The abolition will not, however, impact the financial situation of the province.
A More Focused Mandate for the Ministry
The Ministry of Education will continue to establish the general framework (mission, overall goals and objectives and learner profiles) of Quebec’s education network. It will also set specifications per cycle that will contain the minimum teaching standards in elementary and secondary schools. However, the curriculum will be decided by the principals and their teachers. The process of school accountability to the Ministry, which is very cumbersome and bureaucratic, will be streamlined.
An Independent Review Panel
An evaluation committee (reporting to the National Assembly and not the Ministry) will set the standards to be attained at the primary and the secondary levels, and will gradually raise them. It will also be responsible for devising and administering national tests, will be responsible for grading these tests, will publish the results of these tests aggregated by school and will compile and publish individual school performance (quality at entry, retention and graduation rates, and graduate outcomes in the following cycle).
An Understandable Report Card
The Committee will ensure that a uniform, clear and numbered report card will be accessible for parents.
A Competitive Approach in School Funding
While preserving the universal access to education, the Conservative Party of Quebec advocates a funding method that puts parents at the forefront. This funding method is based on a universal system of school vouchers, as experienced in New Zealand, Denmark and Sweden, among other countries. Through these school vouchers, any parent of a child enrolled in elementary or secondary school may choose a public school in his district, a school in the neighboring district or a private school (profit or non-profit) of his choice. All parents will receive the same amount of money per child enrolled regardless of the chosen school. The value of the voucher will be adjusted according to grade level, geography, learning and adaptation difficulties of students, etc.
The Ministry of Education already uses a similar formula to fund universities and CEGEPs. In fact, post-secondary students choose their programs at their CEGEP or University and these post-secondary establishments receive a subsidy equal to the number of courses taken by those enrolled in the program at a particular time. In exercising these choices, students make universities and CEGEPs compete.
Universal school vouchers will be available to all parents. Parental choice is likely to increase the quality of schools since better schools will receive higher funding. It seems obvious that schools that offer the best training and those best suited to the needs of students will be chosen more often.
Teachers: Independent Professionals
Ministry officials will no longer prescribe teaching methods. It will be up to teachers, in conjunction with school principals, to adopt the methods that they deem the most efficient. This freedom will diversify the supply of educational services to parents.
Teacher training will be reviewed to allow high school principals to hire graduates with a Bachelor degree who have also obtained a one-year certificate in education or have acquired an equivalent ability. The possibility to repeat a grade will be reintroduced for every school year.
Technical Training in CEGEP
We will maintain the technical training programs and adult training programs in CEGEPs. However, we will abolish the general program. High school students will now complete a sixth preparatory year in high school and will have an additional year of university for general education.
The managers of CEGEPs will become more autonomous. They will be encouraged to develop innovative programs leading to a college degree, such as was done with the International Baccalaureate.
Quality indicators will be developed and publicized to create competition between CEGEPs and allow students to be better informed when choosing a CEGEP.
Deregulating University Tuition
Tuition fees for universities other than Université du Québec will be deregulated. Universities belonging to the réseau de l’Université du Québec will be allowed to gradually adjust their fees up to a maximum of 40% of the costs of each program or university faculty. In return, loan and scholarships programs will be adjusted so that deserving students continue to have access to higher education.
Students Free to Join a Student Association
The Act regarding the accreditation and financing of students’ associations will be amended to allow a student to decide not to be a member of an association or be represented by it ; and in such a case, students will no longer be obliged to contribute to these associations.
Repeal of The book Act - Regulations on the acquisition of books by certain persons from accredited bookstores
A Conservative government will repeal the Act which requires schools to purchase books and textbooks at high prices from accredited bookstores, to promote competition and lower acquisition costs.
Competition among music schools abroad
To enable competition with major music schools in the world and allow more flexibility in hiring teachers.
A Conservative government will ensure that conservatories of music and drama are converted chartered institutions such as universities.
Ethics and Religious Culture course (ECR)
A Conservative government will abolish completely the course on ethics and religious culture, and replace this course by a civic education course to better prepare young people for adult life.