New Brunswick's francophone community wants its children to learn more than just the ABCs in school, an education summit in Fredericton was told over the weekend.
The message was that education must include the culture, history and language of Acadia.
"For us, this is an exercise in empowerment, in some ways," said Gino LeBlanc, who heads a commission looking into challenges facing francophone students in the province.
The commission heard from more than 1,200 people at 11 public hearings. All the input was discussed at the weekend conference.
In July, the New Brunswick government appointed LeBlanc to review the province’s French-language school system. LeBlanc is an associate researcher at the Canadian Institute for Research and Public Administration at University of Moncton.
As a minority, francophones see a need for school programs to focus on their heritage. LeBlanc said.
"It’s not just about service in French and English to all citizens. It’s thinking about how the Acadian community is going to develop itself — particularly, differently in harmony with the anglophone community," he said.
LeBlanc said his commission is preparing a report for government that will recommend solutions for the concerns of francophones.
Duality in New Brunswick education is fine, he said, but French-speaking students need to be educated about who they are.
"The school is not just a place where kids are learning to add, to write, science; they’re learning to be part of a culture, to be proud of their language," LeBlanc said.
Student Alexis Couture, with the New Brunswick Federation of Young Francophones, agrees.
"We need to form our youth to be self-aware, to be conscious of their identity and to be proud of that same identity," he said.