A last minute addition to Quebec’s Bill 96 will require international students in some continuing education CEGEP programs to take a French exit exam – a move some stakeholders are concerned will deter incoming mobility.
The change applies to Attestation of College Studies, or AEC, programs – short, technical training qualifications issued in Quebec by CEGEPs and some private colleges, and are designed with current job-market realities in mind.
The Official Gazette entry states that the requirements for French proficiency correspond to level seven in oral expression and comprehension and level four in written expression and comprehension.
“The student demonstrates their French proficiency by providing a valid certificate of standardised test results to the college-level educational institution. Students who have completed a program of study leading to the Attestation of College Studies in French are considered to meet the French knowledge requirements,” it reads.
“A student who has achieved the objectives of a program of study leading to the issue of an Attestation of College Studies in which all the courses are given in French is deemed to meet the French knowledge requirements.”
Bill 96, introduced in 2022, is Quebec’s French language law, and an amendment to the original Charter of the French language.
“Right now we are analysing what level seven in oral comprehension and level four in written comprehension will actually mean to the student who comes with little or no French previously,” said director general of Vanier College, John McMahon in an interview with Montreal CTV News.
“It might require several hundred hours of French courses that will either be blended into their program or they will have to be completed in part either prior, some during, maybe some after.
“But the law is clear that the AEC cannot be granted until those particular levels in both oral and written comprehension are obtained.”
This has an impact on the institutions in terms of their ability to recruit
The new rule will come into effect on July 1, but some stakeholders are worried the decision could deter international students from seeking out such courses in the province and have wider implications on the job market.
“This has an impact on the institutions in terms of their ability to recruit. It has an impact on the students themselves and their interest in coming to Quebec or to take these kind of courses, and an impact on the labour shortage already existing” said Eva Ludvig, president of the Quebec Community Groups Network in an interview with CityNews Montreal.
“Montreal is an attractive city but when you start putting these additional burdens on students, then it becomes a challenge to recruit those students here,” said McMahon, highlighting that international students could opt to choose to for another Canadian destination, without language requirements.
According to McMahon, English colleges have been playing a “crucial role” in supporting the Quebec economy for the last 50+ years.
“If we are consistently hammered with regulations that are in many ways unfair, then it becomes difficult for us to support those other objectives in the labour market for example,” he said.