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Quebec will amend Bill 96 to make allowances for anglophone students

Quebec Minister Responsible for the French Language Simon Jolin-Barrette announces a plan to modify the Quebec language law in the next session, during a news conference, Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s minister responsible for the French language has made a compromise on a controversial amendment to Bill 96, that would have required all students in English-language CEGEPs to take three program-related courses in French in order to graduate.

Instead, Simon Jolin-Barrette says students who don’t have the required language skills to take core courses in French will be allowed to substitute them for three French-language classes of 45 hours each.

Elisabeth Gosselin, a spokesperson for the minister, specified on Tuesday that English CEGEPs would be able to offer the option to students who were eligible to do their primary and secondary studies in English.

The initial amendment proposed by the Quebec Liberal Party and adopted during a parliamentary commission drew harsh criticism from the province’s CEGEP federation, as well as college administrators who said they had not been consulted.

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Read more: CEGEP federation calls Quebec’s Bill 96 amendment ‘appalling’

The First Nations Education Council also spoke out against the initial amendment.

Critics argued English-speaking students were being set up for failure.

The fear was that some students wouldn’t be able to graduate at all, while others could see their grades and R scores plummet. The score rates a student’s academic performance and is used by Quebec universities for selection purposes.

According to the CEGEP federation, more than 35 per cent of the approximately 29,000 students enrolled in English-speaking CEGEPs do not have enough knowledge of the French language to take program-related courses in French.

Read more: Quebec First Nations group slams Bill 96 amendment, says hundreds of students will fail

The changes, to be submitted by Jolin-Barrette, will come into effect in 2024, with grades for the French-language classes counting towards the R score.

In a written statement in French, Gosselin said the minister’s goal in revamping the province’s language laws remained unchanged.

“To allow French to find its rightful place in Quebec and to give Quebecers, no matter their mother tongue, all the tools to fulfill themselves and the ability to fully participate in Quebec society.”

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Gosselin added the changes are meant to address shortcomings in English-language institutions in terms of proficiency in the province’s official language.

In a statement to Global News, the Liberal Party said it was pleased with the changes.

“The students are the real winners with this amendment. At the end of their CEGEP studies, their knowledge of French will be improved, allowing them to better contribute to Quebec society.”

— with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and Felicia Parrillo

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