With French being the first language of 80 per cent of the population, attending an English
school in Quebec can be challenging. Students are usually required to apply for a Certificate of
Eligibility (COE) and meet certain criteria to gain access to English instruction. Now that Bill 96
has been passed and will come into effect in September, there will be significant changes
surrounding admissions, courses and graduation requirements for COE holders.
Bill 101, otherwise known as the Quebec Charter of the French Language, states that the right to
attend publicly funded English language schools is exclusively reserved for COE holders. In
terms of eligibility, Quebec’s Ministry of Education says attending an English school is restricted
to three types of students.
The first is those who reside in Quebec permanently and qualify for a COE. Those students,
along with their siblings and/or parents, usually have received most of their education in English.
Under those circumstances, however, both the parents and siblings must be Canadian citizens
and have received their education in Canada.
Certificates are also issued to those who are entitled to English instruction under special
authorization and to students living in Quebec temporarily who qualify for a temporary
authorization to receive instruction in English. The application process itself is simple — a form is issued by the CEGEP and must be returned
with all the supporting documents, which includes a birth certificate with the names of both
Obtaining a COE is the most common way to receive education in English and, under the new
Bill 96, certificate holders will be prioritized when it comes to admissions, exit tests and required
French language courses.
As of the fall 2023, requirements to be met to graduate will differ for COE holders and students
without a certificate. While COE holders will continue to be required to pass the English Exit
Test under Law 14, English-speaking students without a COE will now be expected to pass the
French Exit Test instead of the English one that was allocated in previous years. This will be
mandatory in order to receive a Diploma of Collegial Studies (DCS).
In the winter 2024, the prioritization of COE holders during the admission process will be the
main change coming into effect. Having a COE will not guarantee admission, as applicants will
still need to meet the minimum requirements.
Lastly, in the fall of 2024, COE holders will be required to take three program courses in French,
while students without a COE will have the option to take three program courses in French or
three additional French language courses.
As the school year progresses, the effects of the changes brought by Bill 96 will be observed.
Photo #1: CEGEP Heritage College is one of the few schools in Gatineau which offers college
education in both French and English. English students are required to obtain a COE in order to
be able to take English courses for their program. (DD) Photo: C EGEP Heritage College
With notes from Mary Baskin and Lily Ryan.