Parents scramble to find English eligibility certificates for high school grads

Parents scramble to find English eligibility certificates for high school grads

Graduates are told that when submitting CEGEP applications, they must prove they have the right to study in English by March 1.

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While parents of high school seniors struggle to get their hands on their children’s English proficiency certificates, Quebec’s Department of Education has still not figured out how to make the important document accessible to English CEGEPs.

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The names of students who have the right to study in Quebec’s English schools are compiled into a database maintained by the Ministry of Education.

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School board admissions specialists can access the database to check the eligibility of new students, but so far the government has not presented a plan to allow registry offices in English CEGEPs and private colleges to access the database.

The Government’s desire to expedite Bill 96 in English CEGEPs is causing confusion and concern among parents who have been told their children must submit their eligibility certificate with their CEGEP application, which is due by March 1st.

Dozens of parents are going to school boards across the province, trying to get a duplicate certificate if it’s lost or misplaced, or to apply for the document the first time their child attends school in French.

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“People come out of nowhere who never got their kids’ certification. These people are coming in much larger numbers,” said Michael Cohen, a spokesman for the English Montreal School Board.

Although the Department for Higher Education has not officially informed school boards and private schools that CEGEP applications must submit enrollment certificates by March 1, news of the policy has leaked through the rumor mill to parents and students, said Tom Rhymes, assistant director-general of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

“My recording crew is already working late,” Rhymes said in an interview this week. “We have told (the Ministry) that we are late in the process. It’s a bit of a step backwards (requiring people to submit credentials).”

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Bill 96, approved last spring, will bring changes to the curriculum and admissions policy of the English college system.

All students must take more French classes, and francophone and allophone students must pass a new French final exam to graduate.

Incoming students must prove they are eligible to teach English in Quebec to be exempt from the French exam.

The guidelines for implementing Bill 96 are constantly changing and in some cases still need to be defined.

Last week, a spokesman for the Department of Education emailed the Montreal Gazette that English-speaking students will not need to resubmit their certificate of eligibility when applying to CEGEP next year.

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But at a meeting last Friday, the directors-general of England’s CEGEPs were told the certificate was required when submitting applications, said Megan Ainscow, a spokeswoman for Dawson College.

CEGEP officials were also told that priority admissions for English-speaking students would be postponed by one semester to January 2024.

The government had hoped to introduce new eligibility rules for the Fall 2023 cohort but had to delay the start date to comply with the Bill 96 legal framework.

In Quebec City, opposition Liberals said parents and students expect “a simple and flexible administrative process without undue burdens.”

“We request that the government adopt an automated process, as the Department of Education already has the information it needs and can transmit it to the Department of Higher Education via the student’s permanent code, rather than forcing parents and students to uselessly skip through hoops,” said the party in a statement.

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Department of Education officials have told the Montreal Gazette that talks are underway to allow English colleges to access the database.

In the meantime, school boards and some private schools recommend that parents ensure they have their children’s credentials before submitting CEGEP applications.

A few dozen parents have requested certificates of eligibility from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board after seeing posts on Facebook on the subject or reading new reports about Bill 96.

“We had about 20 people last week,” said Maxeen Jolin, communications coordinator on the board responsible for Laval, the Laurentians and Lanaudière.

“Most are lower secondary students who go to a French high school but want to go to an English CEGEP,” she said. “Some have children who go to primary school in French, but their parents want to make sure they have the certificate in case something happens.”

A child residing in Quebec is entitled to English if they or a sibling received the majority of their elementary or secondary school education in Canada in English. Children whose parents completed the majority of their elementary education in English anywhere in Canada are also eligible.

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