2010/01/29

English schooling in Québec

Public English schools aren't for everyone in Québec. According to the Charter of the French language, the following children may receive instruction in English:
  • a child whose father or mother is a Canadian citizen and received elementary instruction in English in Canada;
  • a child whose father or mother is a Canadian citizen and who has received or is receiving elementary or secondary instruction in English in Canada, and the brothers and sisters of that child;
  • a child whose father and mother are not Canadian citizens, but whose father or mother received elementary instruction in English in Québec;
  • a child whose father or mother was residing in Québec on 26 August 1977 and had received elementary instruction in English outside Québec.
When it comes to English schooling, newcomers have the same rights as the majority. It's fairly simple actually... sharing a common language is a major asset for people who want to know one another; that's what these rules are aiming at.

Still, some Anglophones are torn between ensuring French proficiency for their children and depriving their descendants of access to English instruction. Since 2001, the English Montreal School Board's enrollment has dropped by over 5,000 students. Lester B. Pearson School Board has lost 2,300 students in the last five years. This is basically the result of parents believing adequate knowledge of both languages gives their children a better chance of success in life. Who can blame them?

In reaction to this trend, Lester B. Pearson School Board will be closing three schools (Jubilee Elementary in Pointe Claire, Purcell Academy in Pierrefonds and Bishop Whelan Elementary in Dorval). It will also be expanding its French offering with more extracurricular activities. "We must prepare our kids to stay in Québec" says board chairperson Marcus Tabachnick. The English Montreal School Board is also launching a campaign aimed at promoting the quality of French taught in its schools.

11 comments:

James said...
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Michel Bolduc said...

James Moore, current Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, is a "product" of immersion school. His French is very good. I've got a few nephews and nieces who are in English immersion programs and who are doing pretty well.

I did it myself for my university education, basically starting off with what I had caught on TV, a little financial help from the provincial government and a lot of determination. The first semester was really hard.

Clarissa said...

This law is the reason why I left Quebec and will never go back, in spite of loving it to distraction. It isn't even about the languages themselves. If I were to have children I would definitely want them to attend Francophone schools anyways.

For me, this law is a violation of the human rights of immigrants. And I can't live in a place where I'm considered less of a human being because of where I was born.

Michel Bolduc said...

Considered less of a human being? May I suggest Bill 101 is detrimental? Things would be much simpler if Québec's minority didn't share its language with 332 million people in North America.

James said...
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James said...
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Michel Bolduc said...

Thanks for your input James. We share listening habits with Christiane Charette. I've looked for a similar podcast in English (variety of topics and depth), but couldn't find any. Any suggestion? Thanks in advance.

James said...
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Michel Bolduc said...

Wow!... I just saw your blog. I'm assuming it's Hindi or Urdu. How did you learn these languages?

I can't think of a single website that would cover Québécois culture like Bollywood Hungama does. Try Voir and Hour, which are Montreal cultural weeklies, and TOU.TV, which is brand new for homegrown TV productions.

Thanks a million for the podcasts. I remember Steve Paikin from the last federal debate. I will gladly try them out.

James said...
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Edward said...

I realize I'm a little late to the party, but I thought I'd offer my two cents. I'm guessing Clarissa is an Anglophone born outside of Quebec and I'm guessing this because her words ring true to me. However legitimate Quebec's language aims may be, the fact is that if you are an Anglophone who came from somewhere else, you will feel discriminated against in Quebec in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Despite the fact that you might stumble in French and that all your relatives are English-speaking, your children will be forced to go to French schools. Not necessarily a problem in and of itself until you realize that every bit of communication with the school will be in French and no school administrator will speak to you in English (good luck trying to help you kids in any way. And, I love it when people who are uninformed on the topic say "well there's always private school" because that's also not an option in Quebec. Most private schools accept gov't funding and therefore have to follow Bill 101.

You will be given forms to fill out written in very formal French that you have no hope of understanding, you will be hung up on when calling government offices and sometimes you will be scolded in a public park (all actual experiences of mine.)

In any case, my point here is not to be rude, it's simply to offer the perspective that because English occupies a certain space in the Quebecois consciousness, those Anglophones not from Canada suddenly find an essential part of their identities are denied and life is actually made much more difficult than it needs to be. You may be eager to learn French and you may love Quebec, but you may also need to rely on English sometimes to get by and when it doesn't go well often enough, it grates after a while. Long and short of it: I agree with Clarissa, it feels an awful lot like discrimination and, after four years, I, too, am packing my bags to leave.

BTW, great blog -- I appreciate the perspective.