The FRQSC Relève étoile award is now named after Paul Gérin-Lajoie as a tribute to this great pioneer.
Minister of Youth from 1960 to 1964 and the very first Minister of Education of the new ministry from 1964 to 1966, Paul Gérin-Lajoie orchestrated the sweeping reform of Québec's education system that would become a pivotal point of the Quiet Revolution. Backed by the Parent Commission, he spearheaded the democratization of education with the implementation of a free public education system, mandatory school attendance until the age of 16, the creation of secondary schools and, later, of colleges and the Université du Québec network, as well as the loans and scholarship program to open doors to higher education.
Paul Gérin-Lajoie distinguished himself in international relations as well. In 1965, signing cooperation agreements on education with France, he helped Québec emerge on the international stage. He went on to lay the foundations of Québec diplomacy by setting out what was later coined the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine: the position that Québec would take its place in international relations in the areas under its jurisdiction. After leaving politics, he served as president of the Canadian International Development Agency from 1970 to 1977, helping Canada figure prominently in cooperation with developing countries.
A great philanthropist, he combined his passion for education and international development and created the Fondation Paul Gérin-Lajoie in 1977 to help improve education and literacy for children in Africa and Haiti. In 1991, he launched the renowned Dictée PGL, a dictation given in French-language schools across Canada and the Francophonie to build awareness of fluency in French.
These achievements marked the history of Québec and earned Paul Gérin-Lajoie over 37 awards and honours, including 13 honorary doctorates. He was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada, Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec and Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and the UNESCO Albert Einstein Gold Medal.