More English belongs in Quebec’s French schools: report

There should be more English taught in the province’s French schools, according to a report commissioned by the former Parti Québécois government.

Unions representing teachers in French schools say intensive English classes won't work

Students at Gardenview, an English elementary school in Montreal, study French intensively from Kindergarten to Grade 2. (CBC)

There should be more English taught in the province’s French schools, according to a report commissioned by the former PartiQuébécois government.

The study’s conclusion supports intensive English instruction in Grade 6.

The Liberal education ministry welcomed the report’s findings.

But the union representing teachers in French schools said Wednesday it opposed the idea, citing concerned that more English could hinder students' learning.

Currently, Bill 101 prevents students in the French system from being taught core curriculum — such as math or geography — in English.

“We have problems in French teaching reading and writing. We have a high level of illiteracy and now we are saying we're going to cut down on hours [where] kids can learn their French well,” said CSN union president Marc Nantel.

Nantel said the union is not against teaching more English, but instead it’s worried about making changes to the curriculum.

“We're asking for better conditions to do it — add a year, give more resources,” Nantel said, adding that the union also concerned about finding qualified teachers.

Nantel said the report lacks scientific evidence.

English schools with French Immersion programs

Many who do the opposite  teach intensive French in English schools say the model can work.

“What better way to learn a language but to do it an early age?” said Evelyn Alfonsi, principal at Gardenview Elementary in Saint-Laurent.

At Gardenview, a school that’s part of the English Montreal School Board, students study French intensively from Kindergarten until the end of Grade 2. Then, the curriculum is split 50 per cent in French and 50 per cent in English.

“Once they've learned that second and sometimes third language — which is French —  the skills or competencies are easily transferred into their mother tongue, which is English,” Alfonsi said, adding that most students move on to study enriched French in high school.

“Living in Quebec they are exposed to the French language on a daily basis. I think the level of French is very much advanced, and they don't lose out on the English instruction either.”


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