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EDUCATION IN QUEBEC • Charles Bilodeau The educational system of Quebec is one of the distinctive features of the province. In its origins, its philosophy, and its legal and academic organization, it differs in striking fashion from the other North American systems. In no other province, of course, does one find the same differences of race, religion, and language: 82 per cent of the population is French-speaking, 88 per cent is Roman Catholic; the remainder is made up of English-speaking and Protestant elements. This demographic duality is reflected in the school system, the majority of the population having created educational institutions in conformity with its ideals, while leaving the minority entirely free to do the same. One cannot really know Quebec without having some idea of its school system. This system has evolved slowly over the years and has passed through numerous stages before reaching its present form. In order to understand it, one must first be aware of its historical background, for the past has left many traces upon the present organization. During the French regime, education in New France, like that in the mother country, was a function of the Church. According to the then prevailing views, the instruction of the population was not the responsibility of the state, but depended upon private initiative, that of families and particularly that of the Church. Quebec was still a tiny waIled town of scarcely 300 inhabitants when the Jesuit missionaries established a primary school for boys there in 1635. This school was soon supplemented by a secondary course of seven years' duration, the curriculum of which was modelled on that of the Jesuit colleges flourishing in France, where the Order trained the .lUte of the country. The principal subjects taught were Latin, Greek, French, rhetoric, science, and philosophy. Subsequently, other courses-hydrography , surveying, law, and theology-were added; in other words, the 398 EDUCATION IN QUEBEC 399 more vital university studies were undertaken. Our modern classical colleges, which constitute one stream of secondary education in Quebec and which have trained almost the entire French-Canadian professional class through the years, have in turn modelled their humanistic instruction on that of this first cOllege. Other schools soon sprang up in the colony. In 1642 the Ursulines opened a girls' school in Quebec. In 1659 Marguerite Bourgeoys established a similar institution in Montreal. A few years later she founded the Congregation of Notre Dame, a religious teaching order destined to become a training ground for teachers, which today numbers 3,500 members dedicated to giving instruction in all ten Canadian provinces. In the next stage, new schools were gradually set up in the most densely populated parishes. The first colonists came from those French provinces in which education was most widely available, and, as soon as conditions permitted in their adopted country, they asked for schools. We know of the existence of at least 47 elementary schools before the British conquest. The educational situation in the colony was almost comparable to that of France at the period, especially if one takes into account the primitive state of the country, the long and severe winters, and the endless wars. In 1668 Mgr de Laval, the first bishop, founded just ontside the city of Quebec an arts-and-crafts school, in which pupils were taught woodworking , masonry, shoemaking, and agriculture, and from which emerged artists and artisans of unusual ability. During the French regime, schools were founded and maintained by the clergy and the religious orders. Certain institutions, however, received subsidies from the king and generous benefactions from France. The bishop was the supreme authority in educational matters, no one being allowed to teach without his permission, and his supremacy was acknowledged by the civil power. This close association of Church and education was to characterize all subsequent developments in French Canada. The disruption caused by the war and the British conquest could not fail to do grave harm to education. Schools were deprived of royal subsidies and of gifts from France; the recruiting of clergy and of members of teaching orders became very difficult or was even strictly forbidden. The Jesuit college was closed and converted into a military barracks, and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 398-412
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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