Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) in Quebec

In Quebec, a Collège d’enseignement general et professionnel (General and professional teaching college in English) is a public school that provides students with the first level of post-secondary education. These institutions are most often referred to by the French acronym CEGEP. Quebec's first CEGEPs opened their doors in 1967, a few months after the adoption of the General and Vocational Colleges Act or Loi des collèges d'enseignement général et professionnel. In 2020, there were 48 CEGEPs in Quebec (see also Education in Canada, Community CollegeUniversities in Canada and University College).



Did you know?
Quebec is the only province in Canada with a CEGEP system.

History of CEGEPs in Quebec

In 1962, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Education in the Province of Quebec chaired by Alphonse-Marie Parent (also known as the Parent Report) proposed the establishment of a new level of studies beyond high school. These studies, which would last two years, were intended to be distinct from both secondary schooling and university education.

CEGEPs were intended to raise the education level of the Quebec population and ensure that as many students as possible would have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary studies. They would include two types of studies: pre-university studies and vocational training. The first would prepare students for university, while the second would prepare them for the labour market. They would also improve the quality of vocational training by integrating it into a multidisciplinary institution. Finally, they would absorb certain programs from the university level, thus allowing universities to concentrate more on specialized training and research development.

The school reform of the 1960s in Quebec was inspired by the principles of democracy, equality of opportunity and driven by the need to adapt to the realities of an advanced urban and industrial society (see  Les Insolences du Frère Untel and Quiet Revolution). As free and public institutions, CEGEPs were considered, along with multidisciplinary secondary schools, to be a major part of this reform. Private institutions offering the same type of education have coexisted alongside public colleges right from the start. The terms "collegial education" and "college system" are most often used to describe the contribution of both these types of educational institution.

The number of CEGEPs increased quickly, from 12 in 1967 to 48 in 1998 (including two regional colleges). The network now comprises 48 public CEGEPs, five of which operate in English, 43 in French. A portion of these are government schools (such as the Institute of Agri-Food Technology), some are subsidized private colleges, and others are unsubsidized private colleges.

Relationship between the CEGEP and the State

Under the Act on CEGEPs, it is the responsibility of the Government of Quebec to create colleges. Under this Act, CEGEPs offer programs which have been authorized by the Minister. All pre-university and technical programs offered by CEGEPs are recognized by the government sanctioned Diploma of College Studies (DSC), most often referred to by its French name and acronym, Diplôme d’études collégiales (DEC). Students can also register in shorter programs that result in an Attestation of College Studies (ACS) (Attestation d’études collégiales or AEC in French) awarded by the institutions.

When the Superior Council of Education was created in 1964, a committee of technical and vocational education was also established. In 1969, it became the Commission on College Education. In 1979, the government created the Council of Colleges to advise the Minister of Education on proposed regulations and other matters concerning college education. Consequently, the Commission on College Education of the Superior Council of Education was dissolved. In 1993, the Council of Colleges was abolished. Its mandate was split in two: one part of its jurisdiction was transferred, again, to the Superior Council of Education. The other was transferred to a new entity, the Commission d'évaluation de l'enseignement collégial du Québec (CEEC), whose mandate was to improve the relevance and quality of college education and to promote social recognition. The mission of the CEEC gradually expanded to include, in 2002, the institutional assessment of CEGEPs and private institutions and the evaluation of CEGEPs'strategic plans.

Mission

The development and growth of CEGEPs has been accompanied by an ongoing debate about their mission, power structure and curriculum. These questions were at the core of the Roquet Report on the Collegial School System (1970), the Nadeau Report on student needs (1975), the White Paper on the college education of the Ministry of Education (1980) and the Robillard reform (1993).

The Roquet Report recommended that changes be made to the curriculum so that all students were required to take and pass courses in mathematics, natural sciences, humanities (philosophy, language and literature), technology, second language and physical education. In the White Paper of 1980, the government revealed its intention to make courses about Quebec's history and economy compulsory, as well as most subjects listed in the Roquet Report. However, it was not until the 1990s, and the program changes triggered by Minister Lucienne Robillard, that the college curriculum was somewhat modified.

In 2004, an important forum on the future of college education was convened. It gathered college representatives, as well as representatives of student associations, unions, school boards, universities and the labour market. In a context when the mission of CEGEPs was being challenged, the forum resulted in ministerial guidelines that did not fundamentally question either the role or contribution of these institutions. In order to promote greater access to college, some changes were made to the regulations on registration status in order to introduce greater flexibility in admission requirements.

Challenges

CEGEPS evolved further in the 1990s. Faced with a more diverse student population, modifications were made to compulsory courses and student requirements were tightened as a result of the Robillard reform. Programs were reviewed according to the skills-based approach, a program approach was implemented along with budget cuts, new communication technologies were introduced, faculty was renewed and concerns for student success increased.

Today, issues of concern to the college system include the population decline experienced by regional institutions, the harmonization of vocational training (at the secondary level) and technical training (at the collegial level). Other challenges include how best to coordinate with universities, the ability to meet the demand of adults who wish to continue their education throughout their lives, and the ability to meet the demand of businesses with respect to training. The future of CEGEPs is also related to how well they will respond to these multiple challenges in a context where their autonomy and funding are overseen by the Quebec government.

Programs Offered

CEGEPs in Quebec offer nine pre-university programs: social science; science; science and the arts; visual arts; music; computer science and mathematics; arts literature and communication; liberal arts and; dance. They also offer 133 technical training programs grouped into the following broad categories: biological technologies; community technologies; applied arts; physical technologies and; business administrative technologies.

Enrollment and Employment

For the 2016 – 2017 school year, more than 169, 240 students were enrolled in regular education at CEGEPs across Quebec. Of this number, 46.1 per cent were enrolled in the university stream, 47.1 per cent in the career stream, and 6.7 per cent were doing a preparatory or exploratory semester.

The CEGEP network employs just under 29, 000 staff members, including teachers, support staff, as well as people in professional and supervisory positions.

Impact

CEGEPs have played a role in the democratization of education by increasing access to post-secondary education in Quebec. They have contributed to the regionalization of education services and technical training. Finally, they have served as important actors in regional economic development and cultural activities, particularly outside larger urban centres such as Montreal and Quebec City, thereby enabling more adults to complete their general and technical education.


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