Cégeps: successes and challenges

Cégeps are a shining symbol of Québec’s transformation. CSQ Magazine met with Mario Beauchemin, union leader and history professor, to review the progress cégeps have made over the last 50 years and define the challenges to come.

CSQ Magazine: Does the unique educational model of cégeps still constitute an advantage?

Mario Beauchemin: Absolutely! The cohabitation of general and vocational programs promotes social mixing. These two orientations share a common general education, which helps create discriminating and responsible citizens.

Have cégeps sufficiently improved access to postsecondary education?

Without a doubt. In the 1960s, access to cégeps was barely 16%. Now, it’s over 60%. When cégeps first opened, there were approximately 14,000 registrations. Today, cégeps welcome more than 175,000 students.

The jump between high school and university is significant. Cégeps make the transition easier. But, there is still work to do to increase participation of young people from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

What are the challenges related to students with disabilities?

Mario Beauchemin is vice-president of the CSQ.

In this case, challenges arise from the insufficient number of professional and support personnel needed to meet the needs of these students. Their educational success demands close supervision and more personalized education.

Does adapting vocational programs to regional needs improve workplace integration?

Adapting programs too specifically to meet local economic needs negatively impacts student mobility. Training that is too narrowly defined results in students

who are less versatile and more dependent on fields that may be in danger of disappearing. Furthermore, this type of training may become obsolete as new technologies continually change work processes. A solid, basic education remains the best option to adapt to a constantly changing labour market and train responsible citizens.

What are the main challenges we face from a union perspective?

To promote student success and meet the needs of young adults, we must increase job security and reduce excessive workloads. We need more resources for students with disabilities or those with special needs.

Furthermore, the survival of regional cégeps demands a review of financing methods. Although union action has helped cégeps obtain more regular funding to ensure the temporary survival of certain programs, the issue needs to settled at the structural level.


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