Bill 96: Quebec to share education records with English CEGEPs to avoid hunting for eligibility certificates

Parents scrambling for a copy of their children’s English eligibility certificate can give up the search, as Quebec’s Ministry for Higher Education has informed English CEGEPs it would be providing the schools with access to education records.

In a letter to the CEGEPs, Minister Pascale Déry said her office was working with the Education Ministry to give them access to the data before March 1, 2023, the deadline for student applications.

Quebec’s new French-language law, known as Bill 96, caps enrollment to English CEGEPs, which are asked to prioritize English-speaking students with eligibility.

The provision has led some CEGEPs to recommend prospective students include their certificates in their applications, and a subsequent surge in requests to school board offices by parents wanting a copy of the document.

“The students who submit an application, they do not have to provide any certificate of eligibility,” Déry said in an interview with CBC News Tuesday.

The update from the ministry comes as parents and English-language school boards complain of being overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork in preparation for this section of the law to come into effect in September 2023.

“It’s sort of becoming a bureaucratic mess because it’s difficult for us to meet the demand that we’re receiving and it’s an indication that bill 96 was passed very quickly,” said Joe Ortona, the chair of the English Montreal School Board.

But Déry said the government is making some changes to try to avoid those difficulties.

“I would like to emphasize the importance of implementing the new provisions of the Charter of the French Language within the time limits prescribed by law, while focusing on student success,” Déry wrote.

“That’s why you can count on the collaboration of the ministry to support you in this process.”

The ministry says it is working on making it easier for English CEGEPs to apply the new French-language law, including pushing back the timeframe for some of the mandatory French courses.

The letter also said schools could submit requests to the ministry to cover the extra funds they are spending on preparing for Bill 96.

As well, courses to prepare for the French-language exam students without eligibility must take can be delayed by a semester — from Sept. 2023 to the winter 2024 semester — as well as the test itself, the letter said.

“Students can therefore take the exam in December 2024 or in May 2025,” he said.

Some students could skip one of the prep courses if their grades supported such a decision, Déry wrote.

The three English courses CEGEP students must take, either French-language courses or subjects in French (for example, chemistry or history), can also be offered in the winter 2025 semester, rather than in the fall of 2024 for the cohort of students beginning that September.