Quebec's English school boards, while facing enormous challenges of geography, resources, and restrictions on student eligibility, have had comparative success in terms of graduation rates. Close to 80 per cent of students across our nine member boards completed high school in 2007. That matches the objective set by the minister for the year 2020. In fact, six of Quebec's top seven school boards with respect to school completion rates were from the English sector.
"Creating a culture of learning"
In Quebec, one out of three students drops out before the end of the 12th grade - and this proportion, the highest in Canada, reaches 40 per cent in some poorer areas. The provincial government recently launched a $50-million campaign, partly financed by a private foundation, aimed at convincing students, and especially their parents, of the need to obtain at least a high-school diploma ...
I was recently talking with a man who teaches French to newly arrived immigrants. His best students, every year, are the Chinese immigrants, even though their native language has nothing in common with French and their culture is very distant from Western culture. The reason is simple: "They're used to working hard," says the teacher. "They learned this in their own families."
... These Chinese immigrants are certainly not flush with money. They succeed and stay in school because the Chinese place a very high value on education - something, unfortunately, that is not a defining feature of Roman Catholic culture. Could this go back to the time when Catholics were discouraged from reading because reading and interpreting the Bible was the task of priests under the Pope's guidance? ...
In any event, governments cannot force parents to value education and they can't force inattentive parents to make sure their children go to school even if they don't like school. But one thing governments should do is face this reality: Any initiative to lower dropout rates should be aimed at boys, who are the primary victims of this deplorable trend. Boys are much more prone than girls to drop out of school before the 12th grade - and this at a time when there are fewer and fewer good, unionized, blue-collar jobs available. Factories have relocated to Asia and industries in the resource sector are now highly automated. Girls with little education can get jobs in various lower level social and health services. There is no future for uneducated boys.