The Province of Quebec in Canada is known as a leader in subsidized daycare in North America. All children in the province have the right to a subsidized daycare space at a price of $7 per day. This program, which was initially introduced in 1998, saw significant results in its first 10 years. It helped to:
- Reduce child poverty
- Increase school scores
- Increase the birth rate
- Increase maternal workforce participation and postsecondary enrollment of women
The daycare system in Quebec is, essentially, an extension of the public education system. Over the past couple of years, the Province of Quebec has made widespread changes to the religion and ethics curriculum in its schools.
While it used to have Protestant and Catholic public school boards and used to provide religious instruction in schools, the province has recently removed the religious designations from its schools and also revised its curriculum so that it no longer teaches faith-based material.
Instead, the new Ethics and Religious Culture program teaches children about human rights, about different religious traditions and beliefs, and about ethics and values. The goal of the curriculum is to broaden students’ horizons and to “make it possible to offer the same education to all Quebec students while respecting the freedom of conscience and religion of parents, students and teachers.”
Today, the Quebec government announced that it is extending the secularization of its public education system into the subsidized daycare program. Yolande James, the Quebec Family Minister, announced that “daycares will not be allowed to teach prayers or any religious doctrine“ if they wish to continue receiving subsidies. Day cares will be allowed to have religious symbols on the premises, but will not be allowed to teach children about them. Religious leaders (e.g. Imams, Rabbis, Priests) will also no longer be permitted to visit subsidized daycare centres.
According to Minister James, around 100 daycares in the Montreal region have a religious focus and will need to revise their curriculum to remove the religious elements. The daycares will have until June to make the required changes, after which time they could lose some or all of their subsidies.
This move seems in line with the increased secularlization of Quebec society and the push to recognize the numerous different cultures and religions that are represented in the province. Unlike other provinces, which still run and fund separate Catholic school boards, Quebec seems to be moving closer to true separation of church and state.
However, not everyone is happy. Quebec has strict language laws to protect the French language and the by-law officers that enforce those laws are often referred to as the “language police.” On some message boards today, people are already starting to talk about the possibility of “religion police.”
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Photo credit: sendusout on flickr