News  Quebec slow to move on CEGEP overcrowding

English CEGEPs poised to bear the brunt of high student influx

The Quebec government continues to be slow in dealing with the over-enrolment and overcrowding of CEGEPs in Montreal and surrounding areas.

The government plans to wait until after the March 1 application deadline to decide how it will address the problem. For now the government has lifted fines for over-enrolment in colleges by up to ten per cent, so that Montreal CEGEPs can cope with the higher demand.

As of last June, the provincial government promised one million dollars to help CEGEPs accommodate students and deal with the lack of space. CEGEPs have been waiting to find out whether the provincial government will continue to facilitate the admittance of more students next August.

Colleges off the island of Montreal, such as Collège Montmorency in Laval, are not included in the agreement to temporarily suspend over-enrolment fines. Many feel that the Quebec government is only focusing on Montreal at their expense, said Johanne Morisette, a spokesperson for Collège Montmorency, in an interview with the Gazette.

“We won’t go out tomorrow with our placard. But we think that probably the ministry didn’t necessarily look at the whole picture when it looked at Montreal Island – it didn’t see that there is Greater Montreal, which has a common reality,” Morissette said.

A report Commissioned by Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and the Institut de recherche sur le français en Amérique  (IRFA) released last Thursday shows that the effects of overcrowding may be compounded for English CEGEPs. The report shows that this is partly due to a greater number of francophone applicants.

According to the report, since the end of 1990 less than half of new registered students in English Montreal CEGEPs speak English as their first language. The reasons for this, the report outlines, are numerous, but an increase in the importance of being fully fluent in the English language as well as an increase in the importance of being fluent in English appear to be driving forces.

“A strong majority of French-speaking people intend to work or continue English academic work after CEGEP. A relatively important proportion of students in English CEGEPs also intend to leave Quebec after their collegial studies. The desire to open a greater number of doors seems to be an important variable in the equation of the choice of an English CEGEP,” stated the report.

Despite the emphasis placed on a greater number of francophones choosing English CEGEPs in order to achieve “full fluency,” the report notes that the trend does not extend to native English speakers enrolling in French CEGEPs.

“[With] anglophones, the importance of the linguistic factor is explained mainly by a greater ease with English, or by difficulties with French. Anglophones having attended the French secondary school [still] have more ease [communicating] in English than in French. This result raises important questions,” read the report.

Despite over thirty years of legislation to ensure French language prominence in the province, the report reveals that English continues to be pervasive.

“In the light of the results presented in this report…it appears clear that the linguistic impact of the English CEGEPs is negatively reflected on the objective to make French the common language of Quebeckers,” said the report.
This continues to stoke controversy over language laws in Quebec. This includes implementing strict rules regarding who can attend publicly funded English schools.

Previously, a loophole in provincial Bill 101 allowed students otherwise ineligible to attend English public school if they attended a non-subsidized private English school for one year. The loophole was closed by the passage of Bill 104 in 2002.
Since then, Bill 104 has been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.  A proposed law, Bill 103, would allow immigrants to send their children to a public English school after three years of attendance at a non-subsidized English school. Bill 103 is currently moving through the Quebec National Assembly.

Neither Minister of Education Line Beauchamp nor the English Montreal School Board could be reached for comment.