On October 28th Gail Lecky, CPF PEI Executive Director presented to Bob Andrews who is charged with organizing public input into the schools review for the Charlottetown Rural, Morell, Colonel Gray, Kinkora, Westisle, and Montague families of schools.
This was that presentation:
By: Gail Lecky, Canadian Parents for French PEI Executive Director
To: Bob Andrews [email protected]
Imagine a generation of Canadians comfortable living and working anywhere in Canada and in many parts of the world, whose ability to transcend differences brings people together, and whose education has prepared them to meet the challenges and enjoy the riches of an increasingly global society.
This vision inspires Canadian Parents for French (CPF). Founded by English speaking parents in 1977, CPF is dedicated to promoting and creating French second language learning opportunities for young Canadians. We believe that learning a second language not only increases communication, it enhances thinking skills, widens horizons, and develops appreciation of and respect for other peoples and other cultures. We see Canada=s two official languages as an opportunity for our children; and we believe that learning both English and French in publicly funded schools is the right of children growing up in an officially bilingual country. We believe learning both English and French is an essential ingredient of a quality Canadian education, and a sound investment in our youth and the future of Canada.
Through our nationwide network of committed volunteers, we work to ensure that young Canadians in all parts of the country have opportunities to learn and use French as a second language. We endeavor to pursue our mission with diligence and excellence because Canadian children deserve our best efforts.
French Immersion programs were widely introduced into Canadian schools in the 1970s to encourage bilingualism across the country. Now fifty years later, immersion programs provide an alternative education stream for many students.
Statistically speaking PEI has the 3rd highest enrollment in French Immersion per capita in Canada. In 2015 there were 4806, 2014 it was 4672 in 2013 there was 4507. This is an increase of 299 over a 3 year period.
Lambert and Tucker (1972) found that parents choosing to enter their children in French Immersion were motivated by their desire to have their children:
– meet and converse with more and varied people;
– understand members of the other group and their way of life; and
– develop friendships with members of the other group; and
– get good jobs
Whether learning a second language, in this case French, is beneficial or not is no longer debatable. Regardless of the program, learning a second language provides many social and academic benefits, including a better understanding of French and French speaking cultures, a facility for other languages, brain development that facilitates other learning, delays the onset of dementia, and provides a greater number of career options.
If we agree that bilingualism is a benefit to the individual then we should also look at the benefit of these bilinguals to the community.
Currently the French Immersion program is an Anglophones only opportunity to become bilingual in the public school system. I will therefore address the availability of French Immersion in PEI schools. The advantages of having French Immersion in a community, as an educational choice, are considerable. Both economically in terms of being able to offer bilingual services in the area and in attracting new residents to the community not to mention retaining current residents because of the enhanced educational choices.
For every family that becomes a permanent resident of an area, there are financial benefits including: increased property and school taxes , money spent at local businesses, increased ability to fund community facilities through community and government support like swimming pools, hockey and curling rinks, baseball diamonds, football fields, museums and other heritage and cultural agencies. Roads and other provincially maintained services are allocated according to number of residents and professional people who are attracted to the community provide expertise: Doctors, teachers, law enforcement officers etc.
For the community at large or the province there are benefits as well: bilingual people to work in tourism, service industries, arts and culture and satisfy official language obligations (note: The level of satisfaction with government services closely mirrors perceptions of accessibility.)
There is no additional cost to the government or the taxpayer. The financial commitment of the provincial and federal governments is assured. Official Languages in Education Program (OLEP) funding is supplied to the Department of education based on school enrollment. Funds are provided on a per-child basis to offset the extra costs of educating a child in French. Provincial base funding provides an amount equal to approximately 65% of the cost of educating a child in the public system, regardless of program. We are then able to offer this program at no additional cost to the taxpayers of PEI.
Parents in PEI are not seeking a luxury for their children. A good French Immersion program should be the right of all Canadian children. French Immersion is not an elitist program that exists only for the bright or the rich. It is for every child. The program reflects the needs of the child and the need of society as a whole. For children to succeed the program needs support that includes well trained and language competent teachers, effective curriculum and curriculum delivery, meaningful experiences in the target language, assessment and classrooms that encourage learning. Most of all the Island student will thrive in this program with the backing of the decision makers in education.
There is no downside to providing French Immersion. It brings benefit to the children who participate in it, to the community that provides it and to the province and country which will ultimately benefit from having a workforce that is skilled in two languages. Giving the children of PEI access to the gift of a second language by providing a strong French Immersion program is opening for them the doors to future self-fulfillment, expanded job prospects and prosperity.
When you are looking at schools that are under-utilized, others overcrowded please take into consideration the school programs that are offered. Please remember that our students need to be positioned for a life that is more global than ever before. These students are our leaders, business owners, consumers, planners, communicators of the future, the better educated they are, the better the world will be tomorrow.
Please do not take away a child’s opportunity to become bilingual, please instead look for more opportunities for those that do not currently have that option. If schools are closed and students are moved this could be one way in which something concrete can be offered back to them.
Thank you for listening to me today. Bon chance.
- Enrollment trends: http://cpf.ca/en/research-advocacy/research/enrolmenttrends/
- Report of the French Second Language Task Force (NB) February 2012 (Lowther, Lockyer, Robichaud, Chiasson)
- State of FSL Reports – CPF BC 2015 and CPF National – 2002-03-04-05 and 06
- Abbaspour, E., Nia, M.R., Zare, J. (2012) How to Integrate Culture in Second Language Education? Journal of Education and Practice, 3(10) http://lrc.cornell.edu/rs/roms/507sp/ExtraReadings/Section0/Section0/uploads/File1235272745204/InterculturalDimensionByram.pdf
Official Languages Research Forum (2004: Gatineau, Québec) Community vitality, community confidence: analysis and discussion on GPC International Survey on Attitudes and Perceptions of Official Languages /