Québec's first colleges of general and professional training (known by their acronym, "CEGEP") opened their doors in 1967, a few months after the adoption of the General and Vocational Colleges Act or Loi des collèges d'enseignement général et professionnel. A few years earlier, in 1962, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Education in the Province of Québec (Parent Report) had proposed the establishment of a new and original level of studies beyond high school. These studies, which would last 2 years, be complete in themselves and clearly distinct from both secondary schooling and university education, would include two types: pre-university studies and vocational training. The first would prepare students for university, while the second would prepare them for the labour market.
The CEGEPs would help raise the educational level of the population and ensure that as many students as possible would have the opportunity to pursue longer and better-quality studies. They would also improve the quality of vocational training for students by integrating it into a multidisciplinary and versatile institution. Finally, they would repatriate, from the university level, programs considered as non-university programs, thus allowing universities to concentrate more on specialized training and research development.
The school reform of the 60s was inspired by the principles of democracy and equality of opportunity, pluralism of humanism, and adaptation to the realities and challenges of an advanced urban and industrial society. As free and public institutions the CEGEPs were considered, along with the multidisciplinary secondary schools, to be a major part of this reform. Private institutions offering the same type of education have coexisted alongside public colleges right from the start. The terms "collegial education" and "college system" are most often used to describe the contribution of both these types of educational institution.
The number of CEGEPs increased rapidly, from 12 in 1967 to 48 in 1998 (including two regional colleges). The public college network comprises 48 public CEGEPs (5 of which are anglophone), 11 government schools (including Conservatories, the Institute of Agri-Food Technology, the MacDonald College and the Québec Institute for Tourism and Hotels), 22 subsidized private colleges and 24 unsubsidized private colleges.
Relationship between the CEGEP and the State
The Act on CEGEPs provides that it is the responsibility of the Government of Québec to create colleges. Under this Act, CEGEPs offer programs which have been authorized by the Minister. The majority of students attending colleges study in programs that lead to a Diploma of Collegial Studies (DCS) issued by the Minister of Education. Others are registered in shorter programs that result in an Attestation of College Studies (ACS) awarded by the institutions. When the Superior Council of Education was created in 1964, a committee of technical and vocational education was also established. In 1969, it became the Commission on College Education. In 1979, the government created the Council of Colleges to advise the Minister of Education on proposed regulations and other matters concerning college education. Consequently, the Commission on College Education of the Superior Council of Education was dissolved. In 1993, the Council of Colleges was abolished. Its mandate was split in two: one part of its jurisdiction was transferred, again, to the Superior Council of Education. The other was transferred to a new entity, the Commission d'évaluation de l'enseignement collégial du Québec (CEEC), whose mandate was to improve the relevance and quality of college education and to promote social recognition. The mission of the CEEC has gradually expanded to include, in 2002, the institutional assessment of CEGEPs and private institutions and the evaluation of CEGEPs' strategic plans.
Structure of CEGEPs and Programs Offered
Each CEGEP is administered by a board of administration consisting of people from the territory's different socio-economic groups, people who work in economic sectors that correspond to the technical college programs, faculty members, parents, students, graduates, staff members and administrators from the institution. The presence of representatives from the local and regional community is significant: it shows the role of CEGEPs in regional economic development, their relations with other educational institutions and with socioeconomic groups, and their proximity to the labour market.
CEGEPs offer nine pre-university programs: social science, natural science, history and civilization, visual arts, science, music, dance, fine arts, and computer science and mathematics. They also offer 132 technical training programs grouped into these broad categories: biology, agri-food, physics, human technologies, administration, arts and communications and graphic arts.
All college programs include a general education component (language and literature, second language, philosophy or "humanities" and physical education).
Data on CEGEPs and College Education
More than 210 000 students attend a college, public or private, full-time or part-time, in regular and continuing education in Québec. Of these students, about 90% attend a public institution. Accessibility to college has increased significantly as a result of the establishment of CEGEPs. More than 60% of the Québec population has already received a regular education at the collegial level, an increase of 21.6% since 1975-1976. Nearly 50% of people obtain a collegial diploma of some sort. Of these, about 25% students obtain a Diploma of Collegial Studies (DCS) of pre-university studies, while nearly 14% are granted a DCS of technical studies.
The CEGEP's network employs the equivalent of approximately 14 500 full-time teachers. The CEGEPs' operating expenses for general education are estimated at just over $ 1.5 billion. The Government of Québec covers approximately 95% of these costs.
Mission of CEGEPs
The development and growth of CEGEPs are accompanied by an ongoing debate about their mission, their power structure and the organization of their curriculum. These questions are at the core of the Roquet Report on the Collegial School System (1970), the Nadeau Report on student needs (1975), the White Paper on the college education of the Ministry of Education (1980) and the Robillard reform (1993). The Roquet Report recommended that changes be made to the curriculum so that all students were required to take and pass courses in mathematics, natural sciences, humanities (philosophy, language and literature), technology, second language and physical education. In the White Paper of 1980, the government revealed its intention to make courses about Québec's history and economy compulsory, as well as most subjects listed in the Roquet Report. However, it was not until the 1990s and the program changes triggered by Minister Lucienne Robillard, that the college curriculum was somewhat modified. In 2004, a forum on the future of college education was held. It brought together college representatives, but also representatives of student associations, unions, school boards, universities, the labour market and regions. The forum, which took place in a context when the mission of CEGEPs was challenged, resulted in ministerial guidelines that did not fundamentally question either their role or contribution. In order to promote greater access to college, some changes were made, among others, to the regulations on registration status in order to introduce greater flexibility in admission requirements.
During the 1990s, CEGEPS underwent important changes: they had a more diverse student population, modifications were made to compulsory courses and student requirements were tightened (as a result of the Robillard reform), programs were reviewed according to the skills-based approach, a program approach was implemented, there were important budget cuts, new communication technologies were introduced, faculty was renewed and concerns for student success increased.
Today, issues of concern to the college system include the population decline experienced by regional institutions, the harmonization of vocational training (at the secondary level) and technical training (at the collegial level). Other issues include coordinating better with universities, institutional assessment, the ability to meet the demand of adults who wish to continue their education throughout their lives, and the ability to meet the demand of businesses with respect to training. The future of CEGEPs is related to how well they will respond to these multiple challenges in a context where their autonomy and funding are supervised by the Québec government.
Over the past four decades, CEGEPs colleges have played a major role in the democratization of education in Québec by offering a post-secondary non-university education across the province. They contributed to the regionalization of education services and the regional roots of technical training. Finally, they were important actors in regional economic development and cultural activities, particularly outside major urban centres, and allowed a significant number of adults to complete their general and technical education.
Author CLAUDE LESSARD and ÉDITH BROCHU
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