Faith-based, single-sex

Écoles privées - subventions - frais - décrochage

Michelle Courchesne, the Minister of Education of Quebec, has ended funding for three Hasidic CEGEPs (pre-university colleges) on grounds - notably, separate classes for male and female students - that are not in accordance with the principle of reasonable accommodation. Nonetheless, the subsidies to religious schools in Quebec have also raised substantial curriculum problems, which tend to support the outcome of the 2007 Ontario election, in which voters in effect rejected public funding for faith-based schools as proposed by the provincial Conservatives.
On the comparative benefits of single-sex education and coeducation, there are legitimately differing views. The disqualification of three schools, including the Torah and Vocational Institute, which is associated with the Cégep Marie-Victorin in Montreal, seems to be based on an unproven assumption that when conservative Hasidim provide single-sex education, it must be discriminatory "sexual segregation."
This year, there have been a series of controversies about religious schools in Quebec, and there is reason to believe that some of them do not adequately teach the curriculum that the provincial government requires.
Specifically, some religious schools, including some Orthodox Jewish ones, are resisting Quebec's new course on ethics and religious culture, which was designed to displace the traditional emphasis on Christianity and Roman Catholicism in particular.
Until now, Ms. Courchesne has tried to steer a middle course through these controversies. But she appears now to be yielding to a view that the Parti Québécois has advanced, that there is a hierarchy of human rights, in which the equality of the sexes must prevail over freedom of religion.
The Liberal government led by Jean Charest could extract itself from these thorny questions by legislating an end to the long-standing subsidization of faith-based schools, which works out to about 60 per cent of their expenses. In the meantime, however, single-sex schools often have merits, and the Hasidim, who after all are not the Taliban, should not be penalized for single-sex classes.

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