English lessons: Perhaps French boards can learn from anglos

Dropout rates in English schools are far less than those in French ones

Bloques know best... (as usual)

Everybody uses the health-care system. But the only people who use the school system, aside from the people who work in it, are families with school-age children. And in Quebec, there aren't many of the latter.
Maybe that's why health care is much more of a political priority than education, even if, ultimately, our ability to provide and pay for the former depends upon the latter.
In a Léger Marketing survey for The Gazette and other media early in the campaign for the Dec. 8 provincial election, health care ranked first among voters' priorities, while the education system was a distant fifth. Thirty-one per cent chose health care first, to only eight per cent for education.
If people cared as much about schools as they did about hospitals, then maybe a story stuffed inside Quebec newspapers in recent days would have made it to the front pages.
Citing Statistics Canada data, the Presse Canadienne news agency reported that Quebec has the worst high-school dropout rate among the provinces.
And, the story said, since the Liberals were elected in 2003 on a platform including a promise to lower the dropout rate, it has gotten worse, not better.
Between 2000 and last year, the proportion of high-school students leaving school without a diploma increased from 26 per cent to 29 per cent.
Dropping out of school has consequences for society as well as individuals. Dropouts earn less and pay less tax, and are more likely to need government assistance.
Last week the Canadian Council on Learning published a report that attempted to quantify these costs.
It said that a high-school dropout can expect to earn $3,000 a year less than a graduate with no post-secondary education. And since a dropout is likely to have poorer health, he would incur additional health costs of $8,000 a year.
It estimated the total national cost of dropping out at $969 million a year for different forms of social assistance and $350 million for the criminal-justice system.
The latest story about the increase in this province's dropout rate is depressingly familiar. In December, the provincial statistics institute reported a similar pattern.
Some have tried to raise public awareness of the problems in the education system.
Two months before the start of last year's provincial election campaign, Jacques Parizeau, former Parti Québécois premier, published an open letter in Le Journal de Montréal in which he declared the public-school system "a mess."
He cited recent education department statistics showing that only slightly more than half of the students in public high schools obtained their diplomas in the normal five years. For that, the teachers' union federation CSQ called him a "pyromaniac," while complaining that Quebec spends less on education than any other province.
But maybe Quebec doesn't have to look very far to find ideas on how to improve the performance of the public school system.
Parizeau noted that the English Montreal School Board had much higher graduation rates than the Commission scolaire de Montréal. It wasn't because of the immigrant children required by Bill 101 to attend French school, he said, since the graduation rate was also low in the French boards that have few immigrant pupils.
And a report published two months later by the five Montreal Island school boards, French and English, went further. It said that even taking into account such factors as gender, socio-economic level and the number of pupils with learning difficulties, a pupil in an English high school was twice as likely to succeed as a pupil in a French high school.
So maybe there's an advantage to having a minority with a different way of doing things. Maybe the English are doing something right. And maybe the French can learn from it.

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