Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
Cycle-Based Organization of ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Multiple Facets to Examine

In February 2001, the Conseil supérieur de l’éducation gave the Elementary Education Commission the mandate to prepare a brief on the cycle-based organization of elementary school.


A reform that is attentive to students’ rates of learning

The cycle-based organization of learning in elementary school is one of the strategies of the reform designed to increase educational success. This measure is based on the fact that not all children learn in the same way or at the same rate. Research results show that students do better in class if they are in an environment that respects their learning style and rate. By dividing schooling into segments that reflect greater attention to children’s learning rates, the reform gives schools a means to combat educational failure.

The organization of learning into cycles is much more than just an administrative measure, for it has a major impact on teachers’ work. In many respects, it requires an underlying philosophy of education based on differentiated learning.

This new approach to the organization of learning affects schools because it changes the roles played by those involved in the education process. With learning cycles spread over more than one year, work must become more flexible, more adaptable, less compartmentalized, and increasingly and more systematically based on teacher autonomy, cooperative work and collective responsibility for learning and results.

The challenge for all stake-holders is to build a coherent model for school organization; at the same time, several of the constituent elements still need to be explored and more clearly defined. This process therefore gives rise to a great many questions and presents a certain number of hurdles as well.


The Commission’s work

In the next few months, the Elementary Education Commission will seek to identify the real pedagogical benefits of this new type of organization and the problems inherent to such a measure; it will then propose possible solutions to these major issues. One issue the Commission will focus on in particular is that of grade repetition.

The Commission will also endeavour to detect and document possible pitfalls of the new cycle-based organization of learning, such as grouping students in the same cycle into strong, average and weak groups, or developing practices that could be seen as catering to the lowest common denominator.

In its work, the Commission will identify the spheres of activity affected by the cycle-based organization of learning, such as the role of students, teachers and principals, or changes in terms of pedagogical approaches, the evaluation of learning, collective responsibility for results, and the adjustment to a new organization of time.

The Commission will then formulate recommendations for action to ensure that despite the numerous changes resulting from the cycle-based organization of learning, it can be implemented successfully. In addition to examining literature on the subject and consulting experts, the Elementary Education Commission will meet frequently with those in the school who are affected by this new organization.

The Conseil will present this brief to the Minister of Education in fall 2002.

Panorama • Volume 6, Number 3 • November 2001


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