Consultation on Educational Success
Educational progress has acted as the single most important factor in democratizing society. The massive gains made over time by all members of society in terms of their literacy, general knowledge and ability to interact with each other have been driven most notably by the development of widespread public education programs and the progressive liberal view of broad learning for all members in a society, where education possesses its own intrinsic value and is valued by all.
Quebec’s own leap forward in education came during the Quiet Revolution, when there was massive investment in a public education system that had been greatly lacking. Education was opened up to everyone in society in a way that had never been done before. This led to vast improvements in literacy, continued studies beyond elementary school, and a general broadening of everyone’s understanding of the world around them. Public education allowed for the vision of equality of opportunity, with the need to continue to work for that vision.
The successes and bold vision of the changes to public education from the Quiet Revolution have lost ground in recent years and decades; an increasingly technocratic and utilitarian view of education has taken hold in Quebec, as in other parts of the world. Education is being reduced to what can be simplistically measured without questioning the value of what is measured; the system is told to improve graduation rates without asking what value the various diplomas have, to improve the employability of individuals without thinking about how and where they fit in the system that exists and to do this while encouraging part of the population to separate itself from the rest in a parallel, but far from equal, system.
Fifty years after the Parent Report and twenty years after the Estates General, Quebeckers are being asked again what they think needs to be done for educational success. This consultation covers many topics but is focused on specific means rather than an overall vision of what education should be. Before examining the individual topics, it is important to establish an overall vision of education first, and then evaluate the relevance or meaning of the individual measures that are proposed rather than examining small pieces without seeing the whole first.
A Liberal Education for all Members of Society
The primary role of education is one of socialization. Here we must understand that socialization does not only mean the ability to interact with other individuals in one’s immediate circle. Rather, socialization refers to the ability to have an understanding of the world and people near to and far from us, to understand things in both the natural and the human worlds.
Such a broad mission requires an equally broad view of the learning that needs to take place in schools. A liberal education that is equally accessible to everyone provides the basis for this learning. The learning happens in many different areas of study so that students are exposed to many different ideas. Through the study of these different areas and subjects, students develop a diversity of skills, a wide range of knowledge, work methods and a critical mind. This learning will allow individuals to grow and attain their greatest potential as capable, contributing citizens of a democratic society.
Liberal education in a democratic society also embodies the value of equality of opportunity, where all members of a society have the same chance to develop themselves to their greatest potential. It also meets the goal of socialization by fostering this learning in a community-based school, where a student shares space and experiences with the other students from his or her area and is able to learn from what makes them both similar and different. Competition between schools is eschewed in order to focus on the learning of all students.
Ultimately, a liberal education is centred on broad, general learning and is not constrained to narrow, utilitarian functions. Specifically, it is not concerned with the need to produce workers; this is training and not education. Education seeks to develop well-informed and well-rounded citizens who are able to be life-long learners.