This text is part of the special booklet Private schools
Once upon a time there were two Drummondville residents, Diane Doucet and Yvon Courcy, who were looking for multilingual education for their children. The problem: the Charter of the French language does not authorize immersion in the English language in subsidized public or private schools. Rather enterprising, the couple therefore created their private unsubsidized “little school”. Their vision: to create a trilingual environment for French-speaking students who will learn English in immersion, French as a mother tongue and Spanish as a second language.
In 26 years, the small Vision school in Drummondville has given birth to a network of 13 primary schools and 11 preschools, which welcome 3,500 students – including a first cohort of 26 students in the new school in Rivière-du-Loup. “We are starting to welcome the second generation, those of children whose parents attended our schools,” said Kim Marchessault, executive director of Coopérative Vision-Éducation, which oversees the network.
Another way of teaching
This ex-marketing consultant discovered Vision Schools ten years ago while looking for a school for her son. She enjoyed the experience so much that she opened two schools: the Petite école Vision Lac-Beauport and the trilingual School Vision Québec Nord. What had pleased him was precisely that his son could learn English well without losing his French.
We are not against Law 101, we are just for the teaching of languages
The idea of immersion means that the core curriculum subjects are taught in English. In Vision schools, up to 19 hours out of 30 are devoted to teaching in English, but 5 are devoted to French as a mother tongue, 4 to Spanish and 3 to physical education. “We exceed the prescribed standards for French courses,” says Serge Pelletier, pedagogical director. This is why our program is 30 hours per week instead of 25 in the [réseau] public. »
He explains that the Vision project never aimed to circumvent Bill 101, on the contrary. “In 2010, we asked not to be classified as a ‘bridge school’ to the English school system. In other words, the child who goes through a Vision school does not become a beneficiary of the Anglophone secondary system. The students, 98% of whom are French-speaking, enter secondary school in French. “We are not against Bill 101, we are just for the teaching of languages. “
“Private unsubsidized” does not mean “unlimited freedom”. Quebec is one of the few governments in the world to force this type of establishment to comply with the program of the Ministry of Education.
“Every three or five years, our schools must renew their permits from the Ministries of Family and Education,” explains Serge Pelletier. Our teachers must all be legally qualified. And everyone takes the minister’s exams in English and French. “
Another way to manage
The organizational structure of Vision Schools has changed twice. In 2005, the group became a franchise network before turning into a cooperative in 2016.
Of the 13 primary schools, 7 are non-profit organizations; the rest of the network is made up of joint stock companies – in short, for-profit schools. The largest schools in the network, those in Terrebonne and Sherbrooke, have two classes per level for approximately 250 elementary students. The average is 140 students.
Even though parents have to pay tuition fees of $ 10,000 – and up to $ 13,000 for preschool – private, unsubsidized schools don’t necessarily roll in gold. In 2006, the Vision schools in Drummondville and Victoriaville, owned by the founders, declared bankruptcy.
Kim Marchessault explains that the vast majority of her 24 general directors (they are all women) are teachers who have a certain taste for entrepreneurial risk. “I opened my primary school with 57 students in 2010, and I have just reached full capacity of 193 students. And it would be like that in Rivière-du-Loup too. “
According to Serge Pelletier, the Vision network is reaching maturity, because the operation of a private school must deal with the costs of education, and those of real estate. This largely explains why the network is not established in Montreal. “Our tuition fees should cover all costs. “
“The parents of our students are not all rich people. Many make sacrifices. Often, grandparents also contribute, explains Kim Marchessault. Most parents are either people who have suffered from not learning English well, or people who have learned it very well and want to make sure their child has the best chance of getting there. “