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Quebec schools and mandatory CPR instruction

CPR training (Photo: Jmh649)
Coroner: CPR should be mandatory in high school (Image:Jmh649)

Coroner Andrée Kronstrom says CPR should be taught in Quebec schools. In her ruling on the death of a boy in Saint-Eustache, an off-island suburb of Montreal, the coroner emphasized that only six percent of the Quebec population knows CPR. "I think it's important for the next citizens of Quebec to learn this but when it's optional some don't," she said.

Survival rates for a person having a heart attack outside of a hospital can be increased as much as four times if a bystander performs CPR. Most often, this bystander is actually a family member, a friend or a co-worker. While Canada's overall rate for bystander CPR is an abysmal 15 percent, it will likely rise in provinces like Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, all of which have made CPR a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

A group called the Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation wants Quebec to follow suit, and make CPR training a requirement. They have been working with schools in the province to create CPR programs for students since 1997, and the statistics are impressive. Each year 6,000 students from 38 schools in five school boards are trained in CPR, as well as how to respond in emergencies involving asthma, diabetes, epileptic seizures, drowning and choking.

The ACT Foundation and its partners provide funding for equipment and materials, and they ensure that teachers receive the necessary training to be able to teach the classes. The price is a commitment on the part of the school to train each of its students in CPR before they graduate. To date $600,000 has been invested in mannequins, and 75 percent of schools in the province have been equipped to teach CPR courses. But the education ministry is not interested in making the classes a requirement, despite a $300,000 contribution from the Quebec government to the program.

Fears the program will disappear
The foundation's executive director Sandra Clarke fears that local programs will eventually fizzle out if the ministry of education does not take a leadership role and make CPR training a required part of the Quebec school curriculum. "With changing priorities, changing personnel and so on, it will gradually fall away," she says.

Quebec's public school curriculum
The Quebec Education Program (QEP) is the authoritative document on what must be taught in Quebec schools. A subject like CPR would most likely fall under the rubric of Personal Development, in the physical education and health course. But because there is no specific requirement for first aid or CPR training in the curriculum, schools may also choose to offer it as an extra-curricular activity.

A similar situation exists with the province's sex education training. While it would seem to fall under the rubric of Personal Development, and parents would expect it to be dealt with in a health or moral education class, the education ministry has opted to take a multidisciplinary approach to sex education, in which all teachers are responsible for sex education, but no teacher is clearly responsible to teach any given aspect at any given moment. While this approach may have been intended to create a greater openness about human sexuality, it can also result in a lack of sexual education due to each teacher assuming the others must have covered the subject already.

Brenda Branswell, "Compulsory CPR urged for high schools." The Gazette

"Schoolyard fight death preventable: coroner." CBC News

To access the Quebec Education Program online, please use the link for primary school or for secondary school. For more information on high school CPR courses, you an visit the ACT Foundation web site.


  • R.R Cratty Parenting & Education Examiner 5 years ago

    Wonderful, this could save lives...wish it was mandatory in Colorado. Thanks for the great story!

  • montreal women's issues, health and mental health 5 years ago

    I would hope there would be a check and balance as teachers are supposed to submit their curriculum to the principal or school board and the school then must make sure some teacher some where covers the topic if it goes through at all.

  • Amanda C. Strosahl 5 years ago

    This definitely should be mandatory. Health classes teach first aid, yet so many of them stop before they get to CPR. It is one of the most important, if not the most important, form of first aid people should know.

  • Kyla Matton - Mtl Parenting & Ed Examiner 5 years ago

    Thank you all for your responses!

    From what I understand, the checks and balances Carol is talking about would apply when it comes to an individual teacher covering all the required elements for their subject area.

    But it would be a logistical nightmare to be sure that these cross-curricular competences are all completely covered. This is especially problematic when it comes to classes that may be offered to students from two or more grade levels, or in cases where students may choose between two or more classes to fulfill a particular requirement. Some students might end up getting the same material twice, while others not at all.

  • Kyla Matton - Mtl Parenting & Ed Examiner 5 years ago

    Amanda, health is covered as part of the physical education program. From what I can gather, the program lists numerous physical skills that must be covered but no specifics in terms of health, hygiene, sexuality, first aid, etc.

    Students are exposed to very general concepts of living an active lifestyle, eating nutritious food, etc. but the focus of the courses is much more on providing the students with two hours a week in school for physical activity.

    In the late 1990s there was a program in Quebec schools that mandated a great deal of what was called personal & social development. It seems that a lot of the specifics from that program were tossed out the window with the current curriculum reform, and everything became much more loosely defined. I tend to feel students potentially lose a lot when the program is so generic. We are probably due for a new curriculum reform in the near future, though, so perhaps the next curriculum will address this issue.

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