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English CEGEPs' struggles with Bill 96 requirements show why language law is needed: minister

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Quebec's minister for the French language says if English CEGEPs are having a problem with the new French-language exam for students, it only shows that the province's language laws are necessary.

Jean-François Roberge also says some English school boards need to do more.

Without singling out any boards in particular, Roberge said some English school boards haven't been doing enough at the elementary and high school level to ensure their students graduate with a better grasp of French.

He was reacting to comments made by the head of Dawson College in an interview with the Journal de Montréal on Tuesday. Director general Diane Gauvin expressed feeling apprehensive about the results of the first French-language exit exam that will take place in December.

Under Bill 96, students who don't have a certificate of eligibility will have to take the test in order to graduate and, depending on eligibility, all students will need to take three program courses in French or three French as a second language courses.

In the interview, Gauvin pointed out that some students are allophone newcomers to Quebec who never studied in French and some came from English private schools that were exempt from the French language charter.

She added some teachers are also having to beef up their level of French in order to teach their subjects. But Roberge says if CEGEPs are struggling to apply Bill 96, it shows that changes made to Quebec's language laws were needed.

"I understand that for some CEGEPs like Dawson it’s difficult, but it’s important. If it’s difficult, it’s because it’s important, it’s because they have to change. It’s not normal to go to a CEGEP here in Quebec and not be able to learn in French and to succeed in a French test," Roberge said in a press scrum on Wednesday.

"I won’t say all English school boards don’t do a good job. It’s not true. But some students are going to anglophone CEGEP and it seems — we'll see — but it seems that they are not able to succeed learning French. If this is right, some change has to be made."

The minister did not clarify when asked what changes would have to be made.

When reached by CTV News on Wednesday, Dawson College said there was no one available for an interview.

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