English school board considers grade 12

Students looking to stay in Quebec for university could have alternative to CEGEP

The Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) – the largest English school board in Quebec – is considering the option of extending Grade 12 to Montreal students. Last September the LBPSB began offering Grade 12 to international students, mostly from Asia.

Traditionally, a student in Quebec takes five years of high school, then a two year program at a CEGEP, after which they qualify to apply to a three-year university program.

Over the past few years, graduates from English high schools have found it increasingly difficult to get into English CEGEPs because of the rising number of applicants and subsequent overcrowding in the schools.

We are addressing an immediate need,” said Marcus Tabachnick, LBPSB chair. “They don’t really have a place to go,” he added, speaking of students who find themselves stranded when they do not get into an English CEGEP.

According to Tabachnick, the program will be modeled on the curriculum of several Ontario school boards so that the LBPSB will not have to invent a curriculum.The program will also be self-financed through either the government, by a tuition fee, or by a combination of the two.

“We will not redirect funds from our Kindergarten-Secondary [Five] grants to cover the costs of this program,” Tabachnick explained.

Currently the Quebec school system dictates that Quebec students must complete CEGEP before applying to university. However, Tabachnick hopes that Quebec universities will agree to accept Quebec Grade 12 students, just as they accept Grade 12 students from other provinces once the program is up and running.

“I am not sure it would be right or fair to deny the same to Quebec students, as long as the course of study being offered is of university-entrance calibre,” said Tabachnick.

Sabrina Nicholson, a U1 Education student who attended Dawson College in Montreal for CEGEP, was skeptical about the Grade 12 option.

“High school was a joke. It was really easy, but CEGEP was so hard. I had so much reading to do and so much homework, and it was a really big switch. But to think if I went from Grade 12 to university, it would have been too much,” said Nicholson. “CEGEP is a good middle ground between high school and university.”

The LBPSB has yet to develop or write an exact proposal for the Grade 12 program. However, there has been a lot of interest from the local community since the program’s public announcement last week, according to Robert Mills, the director general for the LBPSB.

“It’s a collaborative effort here,” he said. “Everybody has been really supportive in making [Grade 12] available to international students and now making it available to local students,” confirmed Tabachnick.

He added that the program went public a little before the board was ready.

Regardless, he is hopeful that the LBPSB will make an official announcement about the program in four to five weeks.
— with files from Erin Hudson