Tag Archives: QEP

The Poor QEP

Dr. Christopher Darius Stonebanks

Rule Britannia

Rule Britannia

The poor Quebec Education Program (QEP). How can something called by the nickname “The Brick” not have a self-esteem problem?  That nasty moniker came to the QEP because teachers would often leave it in the corner of the classroom, complaining about the weight and size of the document, and making comments, such as, that it would be better used as a doorstop than anything else.  One cooperating teacher, when asked how she was supporting her guest pre-service teacher to better understand Quebec’s official curriculum, motioned to the cellophane wrapped and dust covered document on a corner shelf in the classroom. She didn’t use. The standardized, pre-formulated curriculum of a purchased language arts program from the USA was her curriculum of choice. The idea of legal or professional responsibilities towards the QEP meant nothing compared to the ease of following a step by step pre-fab lesson plan of watered down, tasteless literature accompanying stencil sheets and daily handouts provided by a publishing company. Hey, it’s easier than breaking open the plastic-wrap and actually reading the official curriculum, eh? Oh, the poor QEP.

Perhaps even more disappointing were the amount of professors who would lecture on the dangers of standardized curriculum, utilizing US based readings about the No Child Left Behind act, and then transpose that reality onto Quebec. Many of these talks would center around the promotion of teachers as professionals and the pedagogical principles of emancipation, and far too often the fact that the QEP is actually based on these philosophies would be omitted. Freire himself is mentioned in the official government curriculum and I am quite convinced that this reference is unique to Quebec, Canada.   For over a decade, we’ve had this wonderful curriculum in Quebec that did not force content on teachers. Rather, it let them develop exciting relevant and accountable curriculum (the good kind of professionally accountability, not the ever present US No Child Left Behind discussion) that so many good teachers crave, and yet I still hear people in critical circles lament what a difference they could make in schools if schools followed a critical model.

One of the first comments I often hear about our work in Malawi is the disapproving response to the notion of meshing the QEP with the Malawian context and curriculum. Most have an understanding of the QEP that is content specific and believe that we would be teaching students in Malawi about Samuel de Champlain, the War of 1812 and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and such misunderstandings or preconceptions of the foundational principles of the QEP usually indicate that the individual has not read the document.

I won’t go into details of the specifics of the QEP (I don’t want to ruin a good read for you), but the QEP is a competency based approach to education. The targets in the curriculum are universal, and I would be hard pressed to say that any teacher around the world would argue that the learning objectives cited were beyond the development of his/her students. We work on local themes, the context that have deep meaning for children, and universal and timeless concepts to create curriculum. The QEP, in the case of our Malawi school, becomes the indicator for progression of learning. I would argue that the QEP is based on best practices and good pedagogy, and that tailoring teaching around themes and concepts has been successful and respectful teaching far before the QEP came into existence. I expect that although concepts  such as “governance” for instance, would be attached to different themes relevant to local children across Quebec, that the end outcome of deeper learning would be shared amongst all students. Actually, I am lucky to know some of the key English Education authors of the QEP as well as the teachers whose classrooms they used as a model for the program and appreciate that this is indeed the case.

When I go to schools in Malawi, I am always amazed at the overtness of the British curriculum that is still infused as a part of daily education. I couldn’t help but capture an image of the Union Jack on the social studies study guide for the secondary final exam. In our curriculum, the only time Malawi students would learn about Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau is if they were comparing government structures and key leaders across the world in the 1970s and 80s as it related to Malawian President Kamuzu Banda. Governance would be the important concept to grasp, not the visionless memorization of “facts”.  This is what leads to change.

Well, that’s a bit of what we are doing with the curriculum. I know school buildings are an absolute necessity and are more “sexy” to sell in Canada for fundraising, but I am counting on the excellent practitioners that put the QEP together to be our guiding model. There’s a lot riding on the QEP, and I have faith in her. The poor QEP.


For a further look into the QEP and its impact in Quebec, you can read a blog entitled A Reminder That Life is Good: the QEP, Professional Autonomy and Paulo Freire