Charlottetown, PEI (December 9, 2015)—More than 65 delegates from a cross-section of groups from across the country gathered today at UPEI for The Consultation on Culture and Language Learning 2015: Perspective for the Future. The symposium was presented by UPEI and Canadian Parents for French PEI, with support from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.
More than 17,000 people on Prince Edward Island speak French, including more than 5,000 who speak it as a first language. With more young people than ever seeking the benefits of bilingualism, participants at today’s symposium discussed their challenges and opportunities.
“This symposium is just a start to the discussion on how we can improve and enhance language learning for Island students,” said Brittany Jakubiec, President of Canadian Parents for French PEI. “We are thrilled with the quality of the conversation today and looking forward to the next steps identified by this group.”
Participants discussed ways to encourage both first and second French language speakers to live more fully in French: at work, at home, and in public. Dr. Ronald MacDonald, UPEI’s Dean of Education, spoke of education’s role in encouraging a flourishing French community.
“In PEI and across the country there is a French teacher shortage. All of our BEd (français langue second) graduates find work, sometimes even before they graduate,” said Dr. MacDonald. “ This province-wide partnership created to support French language and culture will surely contribute to this gap in the workforce.”
The symposium operated with a think-tank approach, which a variety of open space sessions to encourage dialogue. The day included a special presentation by Graham Fraser, Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages and music from local young entertainers Julien Kitson and Zakery Cormier.
The inaugural symposium was an opportunity to bring together educators and community to network, strengthen partnerships, and identify shared priorities for improving teaching and learning, addressing achievement gaps, and sharing best practices for supporting the well-being and educational outcomes of PEI students.
Organizing groups for the symposium included the PEI Department of Education, Early Childhood Development and Culture, the English Language School Board, La Commision scolaire de langue français, Collège Acadie de Î.-P.É., Holland College, UPEI Faculty of Education, UPEI Department of Modern Languages, UPEI Faculty of Arts, and Canadian Parents for French PEI.