Québec City, June 7, 2018 – Sébastien Proulx, Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and Minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region, has tabled a ministerial directive concerning free education in the National Assembly.
In September 2017, I made a commitment to parents in Québec regarding fees imposed by schools and school boards.
I also committed several times to providing clear directives for the next school year. These directives were necessary and requested by several parties.
To this end, a few minutes ago I tabled a ministerial directive in the National Assembly regarding free educational services, textbooks and required learning materials.
The directive also targets financial contributions payable to school childcare services and transportation services for students attending a school that is part of a school board.
Pursuant to the Education Act and this directive, school boards must take the necessary measures to ensure that no parent is charged fees that they should not be charged.
In Québec, educational services in our elementary schools and high schools have always been free and they will continue to be. And this principle must extend to every incidental aspect.
I want to be clear: any exception to this free education principle should be interpreted restrictively.
The law and the directive are there to be respected and any school board or school that charges a fee to parents for educational services may be sanctioned.
The right to free education, textbooks and required learning materials includes:
- Field trips and educational activities organized as a part of the curriculum and the school calendar
- School board admission and registration in school or particular program
- Textbooks and instructional materials required for teaching the curriculum, with the exception of “documents in which students write, draw or cut out” and “pencils, paper and other objects of a like nature,” for example rulers, erasers and glue
- Generally expensive specialized items, such as iPads, should not be charged to parents
- Regarding school childcare services, the fee charged to parents must be reasonable and comply with applicable budget measures
- Lastly, school transportation services organized by the school board for daily travel to and from school must be free, with the exception of noon lunch transportation to allow students to eat at home
The purpose of the directive, however, is not to question what works in schools or to undermine the initiatives that help stimulate our children and enrich their school life in Québec.
In the near future, this position will become reality when schools adopt school lists in next few days in preparation for the coming school year.
The Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES) will support the education system as it implements this directive in the community. The Comité MEES partenaires (MEES partners’ committee), a cooperative body focused on education, will become a place for exchanging good practices concerning free education. This forum will contribute to maintaining consistent guidelines and, as a result, greater equity, to the benefit of all parents in Québec.
I would also like to point out that the government is already taking concrete measures to prove its commitment towards the families of Québec, such as by providing $100 per school-aged child in financial support to help buy school supplies. This year, parents will receive $200 as of July 1st.
In medium term, I am also committed to a broad consultative approach being taken to look at today’s schools, including free education. There is a social debate to be had. There are accessibility and equity challenges to consider.
In fact, over the last few years, the educational environment has changed and evolved at a steady pace. Technology offers us new ways of learning that have been refined and diversified to better meet goals and to stimulate students to develop their talents and, ultimately, their interest.
It is now, in the context of these public school advancements, that the principle of free education must be considered.
These are substantive discussions that cannot be rushed or avoided as part of our reflection on free education and the fees that parents must pay to today’s schools.
It is through an in-depth and ordered consultative approach that such reflection needs to be addressed. I am therefore announcing that a green paper will be produced and the discussion will take place in a public space.
In this regard, all parties must be considered, including the school boards, principals, teachers, parents, cultural and sports organizations and many others. This discussion is a necessary prerequisite for any legislative exercise aimed at identifying possible options tailored to the schools of today and tomorrow. The green paper will allow us to reach a consensus and allow us to amend the Education Act to reflect today’s 21st century schools.
It is an opportunity that we must seize so that a general consensus drives the government’s legislative and administrative actions and the education system’s actions in this area.
I will conclude by reiterating the importance of real equal opportunity for all the children in Québec. I firmly believe that free educational services are the basis of this principle. Schools of the 21st century must remain accessible and fair for all.
I strongly believe that the approach I am proposing today—a directive, a green paper and an updated public education law—will allow the children of Québec to fully benefit from our education system.
– Sébastien Proulx, Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and Minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region
- Under section 459.6 of the Education Act, the Minister may, within the scope of his responsibilities, issue directives that may apply to one or more school boards relating to their administration, organization, operations, or actions. These directives may also result in supplementing or clarifying the budgetary rules during the school year.
- The directive issued by the Minister is binding on school boards and was approved by the Government and tabled today in the National Assembly.