For years now, English schools and students have been the poor relations of Quebec's curriculum reform. As the reform extends up to senior high school grades, the problem is becoming more serious. And there's no solution in sight.
The reform has been widely derided, so that "competencies" has become a term of mockery for many people. Many teachers, French and English, remain opposed to the reform, but it has been plowing ahead all the same. The special concern for anglophone schools is the fast pace of the change, which has left textbook translation about two years behind. Next fall, as the Grade 10 curriculum changes, English teaching materials will become available for Grade 8.
This has been a problem all through the process, but becomes more serious as students approach their provincial exams.
Now the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers is asking, again, for a delay on the reform in English schools. But that is not going to happen - the government in Quebec is just too committed to this reform.
Nor should it happen. Imagine the reaction among anglophone parents and teachers if only French schools move ahead with the reform. How would English CEGEPs cope with applications from French and English students who've learned different things?
On the other hand, francophone students who have textbooks may well do better on provincial exams than anglophone students without books. That will likely hurt anglos' chances of being accepted for certain limited-admission programs, or might generally impair their learning. How is that fair?
The textbook delay could conceivably be solved by applying more money. Plenty of documents are published in both languages simultaneously in Quebec every week, after all, in the public and private sectors alike. But in some cases here, we're talking about just a few hundred copies of an English text; the unit cost would be enormous. Nobody close to the issue expects the government to go that route, either.
Education Minister Michelle Courchesne is said to be sympathethic, but if she has a solution to offer, she hasn't spoken up yet.
The burden of educating students despite this absurd problem falls squarely on their teachers, so nobody should blame them for being concerned. They'll have to scrape and struggle for what teaching materials they can find. This is just another part of the price English schools pay for being a mere afterthought in Quebec.