Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
A STRONG General Education Component in Technical Studies at the College Level

The Conseil supérieur de l'éducation believes that in order to bolster the graduation rate among students of the technical programs at the college level, the link between general education and technical specialization must be reinforced. It feels that the integrated program approach being instituted in the college network is a promising means, and, in addition to proposing courses of action likely to enhance student success in the short term, it echoes the education community's hope that the current reform will be given the time it needs to fulfil its purpose.


The meaning of general education

The Conseil feels that the aims of the general education component at the college level must be clearly defined. While constituting a continuum of the basic education received at secondary school, it must also permit access to a "common general culture" (a concept which, in itself, requires clearer definition) and help develop transferable skills such as the ability to reason, analyze, and communicate.

While these goals have been endlessly reaffirmed since CEGEPs were created, the general education component does not make sense to many students in the technical sector, who often perceive it as a waste of time and a burden.

The Conseil feels that if we are to truly interest students in the general education component, the latter must be relevant to their program and to students' daily lives. Among other factors, motivation hinges on an awareness of the importance of these general skills in the practice of technical specialties and of the contribution of general education disciplines to acquiring these skills.


Promising avenues

The Conseil believes that the measures instituted under the 1993 reform of college education are helping to forge links between the general education component and technical specialization. The Conseil considers the integrated program approach a means for reinforcing the required integration, insofar as measures are devoted to its implementation.

This presupposes a collective assumption of responsibility for student training in a given program. The Conseil is therefore asking the teachers of both technical specialties and of general education to work together to promote students' understanding of the meaning and aims of education.


Recommendations to the Minister

The Conseil encourages the Minister to support the front line players, notably by targeting greater consistency between the reform's accountability component and the sometimes rigid regulations governing financing and work organization. The Conseil also wishes to point out the importance of supporting research and professional development.

The Conseil supérieur de l'éducation also recommends that the Minister take advantage of the secondary school curriculum review to enhance continuity between the secondary and college levels.

Finally, the Conseil recommends that bridges be built within the Ministère de l'Éducation between the structures responsible for the general education component and those entrusted with technical training.


Low graduation rates
The General Education Component is not the Problem

In its brief entitled Pour une formation générale bien enracinée dans les études techniques collégiales, the Conseil supérieur de l'éducation questions the widespread belief that the general education component is the main obstacle to academic success in the technical sector at the college level.

The Conseil's analysis takes issue with the hypothesis (propounded notably during the Estates General on Education) that the general education component is a "stumbling block" for a good many technical students, causing them to drop out.


Main observations

At first glance, statistics indicate that the success rate for general education courses is lower in the technical sector than in the pre-university sector. The same is true for the graduation rate, a phenomenon which the Conseil considers cause for concern. Less than 30% of technical students obtain their diploma within the prescribed three years.

However, when secondary school records are taken into account, it appears that, for students with similar academic backgrounds, success and graduation rates are similar for the two sectors. These observations are correlated with the secondary school academic average.

To date, no study on students who have almost completed their technical DEC has blamed the failure to graduate more on the general education component than on specialized courses.


Other factors

The Conseil believes that other factors, beyond statistical data on success and graduation rates, should also be taken into consideration. It indicates, for example, the longer duration of studies and the greater number of courses involved in the technical sector compared to the pre-university sector.

It also points out that the very heavy work load for specialized courses in certain programs may lead students to neglect their general education courses or postpone them until another session.

The Conseil also reports than in certain areas, where jobs are more readily available such as computer science and day care services, employers hire near-graduates, who often have not completed the general education component required for the diploma of college studies.

The Conseil encourages further study of this situation to find better ways of obtaining success and increasing graduation rates in the technical sector at the college level.

Panorama • Volume 2, Number 3 • November 1997

Speaker's notes


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