Quebec's education minister has issued a directive reminding schools and teachers that failing means failing.

Sebastien Proulx said the practice of inflating grades so that poor students are given passing grades must stop.

"The evaluation of students must take place with respect and regards for the value and rules which assure quality, and, in according with the principles of justice, rigour, and transparency," said Proulx in the National Assembly.

Teachers have long been complaining about being pressured to inflate grades that students with 55 and 59 per cent are given a passing grade of 60 per cent.

Proulx said that will no longer be tolerated.

Robert Green, a teacher at Westmount High School, agreed.

“The Education Act in Quebec is very clear that the evaluation of the student is the exclusive responsibility of the teacher,” said Green, who confirmed that grades are changed after the fact in some cases. “Oh it absolutely is happening. It's happening across the board.”

The teachers union FAE (federation autonome de l'enseignement) was happy with the education minister’s message, pointing out a recent poll of teachers noted that nearly half had seen the grades they'd given to students altered.

However Jennifer Maccarone, president for the Quebec English School Board Association, does not believe that that grade inflation exists to any large extent.

"I'm not convinced that this is an issue. I really do feel that certainly in our sector, in the English sector, I know that our teachers and administrators and head office personnel have the best interest of students at heart," said Maccarone.

"It does us absolutely no good to graduate a student who will not be able to succeed at a higher level of education or get a job."

Parti Quebecois education critic Alexandre Cloutier said grade inflation should be studied with a commission that hears from teachers and school boards.

“We are asking for a commission in the National Assembly so that we can hear all the professors,  the teachers, the school boards and everyone that is concerned in that matter,” he said.

Beyond a commission, Maccarone is suggesting a re-evaluation of the assessment process.

“If a student goes from the beginning of the year testing at 40 per cent, moves up to a 50  per cent and at the end of the year gets a 70 per cent on a ministerial test  and we're going to average it out and say that child got a 58 per cent and you fail?” she posited.

That's beyond a teacher’s control, countered Green, saying it’s data.  

The problem, he said, is the pressure for schools to always do better.

“Schools signing contracts that they will increase success rates by a certain amount from one year to the next,” he said, meaning some students get a passing grade when they don’t dseserve one.

Grade inflation has frequently been mentioned as a serious problem, especially at the high school level.

More than a decade ago McGill University admitted that it was stricter with applications from Ontario-based students because of grade inflation and the lack of standardized provincial testing.