10/12/2012 09:20 EDT | Updated 12/12/2012 05:12 EST

Que. private schools defend entrance exams

Quebec's education minister has called on private schools that receive public funding to stop using entrance exams to weed out students with learning challenges.

"The private schools and the public schools share the responsibilities of teaching students who have more difficulties in learning," Marie Malavoy said Friday.

She said private schools — many of which rely on the provincial government for as much as half of their financing — should be open to all students, regardless of ability.

Schools look for 'good fit,' says principal

The schools contend the entrance tests help ensure prospective students are a good fit for each school's program.

"We're looking at their grades. We're looking at how they managed on the entrance exam. We have an interview. We're looking at the child," said Mary Reynolds, the principal of Queen of Angels Academy in Dorval. "What are we going to be able to offer that particular student?"

Reynolds said eliminating entrance exams is the wrong approach.

"Is the answer having every school cater to every student's needs?" she asked. "I'm not at all convinced that that's the way to go."

The Quebec Association of Independent Schools said its member schools are open to changes under the right circumstances — and with enough financial help.

"We are more than happy to enter into a dialogue with Madame Malavoy, to explore the situation of increasing the percentage of students in our schools that have learning challenges and, most importantly, providing appropriate resources so those kids can be successful," said the association's executive-director, Michel Lafrance.