November 17, 1997 The purpose of this newsletter is to keep MEQ staff and staff in the school system abreast of developments in the implementation of the ministerial plan of action for the reform of the education system. Education Reform Update will generally feature short articles or questions and answers on the reform. Readers are encouraged to make copies and share them with colleagues.
THE EDUCATION REFORM: SPECIFIC GOALS
The ultimate goal of the education reform is to improve the quality of student learning. Attaining this goal will involve enriching learning content, identifying the basic skills and knowledge, determining the content to be included in the programs, and revising the programs in order to streamline and clarify them. It will also require improvements to the organization of teaching in our schools. Before we can make any of these changes, we must first alter the education environment within which they are to take place. Some basic conditions must be satisfied in order for the reform to be successful. We must focus on the essential part of what students are to learn. In other words, we must remove all of the extras that have been added on over the years and keep only the basic skills and knowledge that are crucial to students’ success: mastery of the language of instruction and of the second language; mastery of the fundamentals of mathematics; knowledge of history; knowledge of the arts; knowledge of the fundamentals of science; and the development of effective work methods. Other essential skills and behaviours relate to students’ personal and social development. It is also important to improve the cultural content of the programs of study. Each program will be revised to set out explicitly the cultural aspect of the subject it covers. For example, language of instruction programs will place more emphasis on literature and literary history. There is a need for a standard curriculum that is more rigorous. The objectives of the programs must be clear. The same holds true for their connection to the other subjects in the curriculum. Programs that are not redundant, fair evaluation methods that are easily understood by students and their parents, and authoritative,
interesting teaching materials are so many elements that will stimulate students’ love of learning. To reduce academic failure and the dropout rate, our schools must give special attention to each student. In other words, they must give all students, even those who are having a hard time, the opportunity to develop their talents and skills. All students can learn even the most complex concepts when given the means to do so. Another goal of the reform is to prepare students for lifelong learning. Rather than have students simply receive knowledge, this approach gives them an active role in its discovery and construction. The idea is to train them to ask questions, discuss their ideas, and make connections. Finally, the redesigned curriculum could not have the desired effect if it did not give teachers the leeway to use their judgment. Teachers will enjoy the latitude they need in order to use their professional skills to the fullest and work with students effectively. For the same reason, the programs of study must be based on the learning to be achieved by students, not on standard norms.
up only 75 percent of the allotted teaching time so that teachers will have greater flexibility to enrich or adapt their content. A new program, called the “program of programs,” will set out the learning to be acquired by students across all subjects in the curriculum. This cross-curricular learning consists of skills, behaviours and attitudes which allow students to transfer learning acquired in a given context to various fields of activity. To promote ongoing reflection on the curriculum, a programs committee, the Commission des programmes d’études, will be formed. It will supervise and coordinate the revision of programs. This advisory body will make recommendations to the Minister of Education on the content of the programs. Its members will include teachers and school personnel.
All of these changes will be made, not in a hasty manner, but certainly without delay in order to provide our young people with an education that is better adapted to the world in which they live. Within the next few months, the programs committee will propose a timetable for the implementation of the programs. The revised programs will be implemented at the same time as the new subject-time allocation.
T HE REVISION OF THE PROGRAMS: T HE HEART OF THE REFORM* Over the next few years, the programs of study will be revised in order to enrich their content or adapt it to changes in the subject-time allocation. New programs will be developed. Furthermore, a programs committee, the Commission des programmes d’études, will be established to set the broad guidelines for the development and revision of programs. Programs will no longer be developed by grade level, but by cycle. They will be drafted in simple, straightforward language free of any technical jargon. They will leave the choice of teaching methods and strategies up to teachers. Moreover, they will be designed to take
* Education Reform Update will relay information on the revision of the programs as soon as it becomes available.
A NEW DIRECTION FOR SUCCESS
The new programs will be phased in as of September 1999 and their implementation should be completed by the end of the 2002-3 school year at the elementary level, and by the end of the 2005-6 school year at the secondary level. Deadlines may be moved up in certain cases, such as that of the history programs.
Students must understand the world in which they live. They must therefore be introduced to science and technology in the early stages of their education. If they are familiarized at a young age with the spirit and methods of science, they will be better able to understand the ethical issues raised by scientific progress. Every day, we calculate, measure, and interpret quantitative data. A fundamental knowledge of mathematics is thus an essential ingredient in our basic education. In a society where human relations are more and more complex, a solid base in the social sciences will help students better understand their own society and will open their minds to other societies. History, citizenship education, geography and economics will allow them to understand our institutions and to trace the roots of present-day society. It is also important to develop students’ sensibilities and creativity. Arts education will introduce students to different forms of artistic expression. It will provide students with opportunities to visit cultural venues. It will also bring them into contact with and help them understand the works of art that are part of the cultural heritage of humanity, with particular emphasis on the visual arts and music.
Students’ personal development will be the focus of the religious education, moral education, and physical education and health education programs. Finally, students must acquire skills and attitudes that do not fall exclusively within the basic subjects, and so must be included in all of the educational activities held in a school. They are part of what we refer to as cross-curricular learning, and are grouped into four categories: intellectual skills; methodological skills; attitudes and behaviours; and language skills. By developing these skills across the curriculum, students will be able to organize and do their work more effectively, to work with others, and to use new information and communications technologies.
ESSENTIAL LEARNING IN FIVE FIELDS
The programs of study will be revised to ensure that all students master the basic skills and knowledge. The new curriculum will be restructured on the basis of five fields of study: languages; technology, science and mathematics; social sciences; arts education; and personal development. It will also include cross-curricular learning. The language of instruction will be the top priority in all aspects of the curriculum. A major part of our heritage, language is the stepping stone to all other types of learning. Emphasis will also be placed on the second language and a third language. Young children have a natural ability to learn language and learning a second and a third language can only help them find their place in today’s global village.
THE NEXT ISSUE WILL LOOK AT:
. Compulsory schooling: the organization of teaching . Professional development for teachers, student evaluation and the approval of teaching materials
The purpose of Education Reform Update is to keep readers up-to-date on the progress of the reform set out in A New Direction for Success: Ministerial Plan of Action for the Reform of the Education System. The newsletter is published by the communications branch of the ministère de l’Éducation, in cooperation with the office of the Deputy Minister of Education. Director of Communications: Daniel Legault Coordinator: Michel Moisan Legal Deposit: Bibliothèque nationale du Québec Bibliothèque nationale du Canada ISSN: 1480-3054 — File: 97-0656 Code: 55-1852A Education Reform Update Ministère de l'Éducation 1035, rue De La Chevrotière, 11e étage Québec (Québec) G1R 5A5 Telephone: (418) 644-5816 — Fax: (418) 528-2080 Internet: http://www.meq.gouv.qc.ca E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org