Graduate Studies at BU: Studying the Implementation of the Ethics and Religious Culture Program in Rural Regions of Quebec

Graduate Studies at BU: Studying the Implementation of the Ethics and Religious Culture Program in Rural Regions of Quebec

Kassandra Norrie

Roughly ten years ago, Quebec schools put an end to religious education and implemented the new Ethics and Religious Cultures program. Kassandra Norrie never experienced this new program as a student, but she was introduced to it at Bishop’s University as a student teacher.

The change wasn’t implemented equally everywhere, and some teachers actually decided not to teach world religions. There are consequences to decisions such as these: if a classroom is not designed to be equitable, the students in that classroom are not exposed to and convinced of the importance of equity. It is generally accepted that schools are a reflection of the community they are in. The type of education children receive can be a strong indicator of the type of community they will go on to form.

Kassandra is therefore asking herself the following question: how are teachers understanding and reacting to their obligation to teach the Ethics and Religious Culture program in Quebec’s secular schools? Is it in line or in contradiction with their values and their perception of their role as educators? What are their perspectives on multicultural education, particular in regions that seem to be fairly homogeneous, such as rural Quebec?

As a student who came from a small rural town, Bishop’s was Kassandra’s first experience with multicultural education, and she was excited to see that the curriculum was changing to bring new experiences to elementary and high school students who might not otherwise experience and learn about cultures other than their own. When she began working in schools, though, she was surprised to see that there was a such a great variety in the way that the Ethics and Religious Cultures program was being implemented, especially in rural schools.

As an undergraduate student at Bishop’s, Kassandra considers herself lucky to have developed relationships with professors in the School of Education and to have had the opportunity to learn about their research profiles. She left Bishop’s after graduation, began teaching, and then started a Master’s degree elsewhere. It was the possibility of getting involved in Dr. Christopher Stonebanks’ SSHRC-funded research project, as a research assistant and as a Master’s student, that led her back to Bishop’s for her graduate studies in Education.