Quebec ministerial exams now mandatory for homeschoolers; parents' group protests

Lisa Marie Fletcher, second from left, helps her children with math lessons at the Whitby Central Library in Whitby, Ont. on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darren Calabrese)

A group of Quebec parents is asking to suspend the new obligation this year that forces children schooled at home to take ministerial exams in Grades 4 and 6, as well as in Secondary 2.

The Quebec Association for Home Education (AQED) wants these tests to remain optional, among five possible options for annually assessing homeschooled children's knowledge.

AQED says it's concerned about the repercussions that requiring ministerial exams could have on these students. About half of them have been taken out of school because they have learning disabilities, disabilities or mental health problems, which the mainstream education system cannot adequately address, according to the organization.

After repeated unsuccessful requests, AQED says it sent a formal notice last Thursday to the office of Minister of Education Jean-François Roberge, "to ask him for urgent intervention to suspend the ministerial end-of-year exams."

If nothing changes by Wednesday, an injunction will be filed, says the president of the association, Marine Dumond-Després.

"The exams are coming up in the next few days, so it's really something urgent and we will take it very seriously," she said in an interview.

"We feel we've been very open about the consequences that this could have on some of our families."

Submitting these young people to the exams could cause anxiety, according to the AQÉD, which represents 4,000 children educated at home.

"We have young people who are going to have to go to a school where they have never been, because they have never been to school," said Dumond-Després."

Young people who have been bullied -- which motivated the choice of withdrawal from school and home education -- they will be forced to return to the establishment where they suffered difficult ordeals."

Ordering a standardized assessment for these students experiencing unique, specific situations will also give a "biased result," since it will not correspond to the way in which the teaching was provided, Dumond-Després argued.

"Having a choice allowed parents to choose the most appropriate type of assessment according to their child's profile," she said.

"The fact of imposing [the ministerial examinations], in the end it denies the parent's choice to do education at home, using alternative pedagogies."

PREPARATION MATERIALS CALLED 'INSUFFICIENT'

Other annual assessment options available to families under the homeschooling policy include using a private school assessor or submitting a portfolio to the ministry.

The entry into force of the requirement for ministerial examinations stems from an amendment to this policy.

One of the arguments raised by the province to defend the change is that it will ensure that students follow Quebec schools' training programs, said Dumond-Després.

But according to her, parents already fill out a lot of documentation throughout the year allowing the ministry to check the progress of learning.

AQED also sad it isn't pleased with the fact that the ministerial exams in Secondary 4 and 5 count for 100 per cent of the final mark for young people educated at home. Its president asked that the weighting be the same as that of the school network.

The association estimates that there are more than 10,000 homeschooled children in Quebec, but said it does does not know how many young people will be affected by the obligation to take the ministerial exams.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 23, 2022.

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