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Tag Archives: French Immersion

French versus French Immersion at the Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently heard a case involving the Government of Yukon versus the French school board (la commission scolaire district #23). For those interested in French immersion, it is an interesting case to follow.

There are many issues at play but the most significant for the purposes of French immersion is the following: The French school board of Yukon alleges that the government redirected just under 2 million dollars from funds earmarked for the French school to French immersion programs offered by the English schools.

Another interesting issue is who gets to control access to minority language education (in this case, French as a first language): the government or school board? If the right to access minority language education is interpreted narrowly, then the population of the minority language will not greatly increase thereby potentially threatening that culture. If, on the other hand, the right to access minority language education is interpreted too broadly, non-francophones (in this case) could have access to the school and, essentially, transform a French school into a French immersion program. This could also significantly impact on the survival of that culture.

There has also been much made of Québec’s intervention in the case. It takes the position of the narrow definition for the simple reason that if the broad definition is accepted outside Québec (i.e. more people can access French as a first language schools), then more non-anglophones can access English schools in Québec. In order to maintain the predominately French culture of Québec, governments have been reticent in allowing access to English schools. It’s legal position is that (1) school boards do not have a constitutional right to decide criteria for admission to schools of the minority language and (2) broadening the criteria for admission to minority language schools without (provincial/territorial) government consent would require a constitutional amendment of section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It usually takes the Supreme Court of Canada about 7-10 months to deliver decisions, so the outcome should be known by fall.

Resources for parents of French immersion students

Learning another language can often be frustrating. Learning in another language is almost always so. But it is also immensely rewarding. At school, your child has access to knowledgeable teachers and other school staff to help when needed. You may also use a private tutor bridge any gaps to fully understanding the material.

A common problem for parents, though, is how to help your child with homework, or even just understanding things your child’s teacher writes. To help parents with this, FrancoZone offers courses specifically designed for parents of French immersion students. If interested, simply contact us.

Below are some other helpful resources for parents:

 

  1. Canadian Parents for French: an excellent organization organized for and by parents with an interest in their children’s knowledge of French.
  2. University of Calgary’s Counseling Service for Parents of Bilingual Children: a good place for advise from experts from the University of Calgary.
  3. The Société de la petite enfance et de la famille du Sud de l’Alberta: offers educational programing in French. It is also a good place to meet other francophones/francophiles.
  4. The Centre de Ressources Francothèque: offers access to various media forms (DVDs, books, games, and even activities) all in French.

Understanding the DELF Exam

In recent years, French Immersion programs around the country have been slowly but steadily adopting the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (abbreviated as CEFR). As the name suggests, the framework was adopted in Europe where, because of their dense population and close proximity to different languages, the Europeans have a far stronger tradition in learning and teaching multiple languages.

The common framework has the benefit of streamlining language education across jurisdictions so that evaluations and credentials are widely recognized. The DELF exam (diplôme d’études en langue française) is the exam of the CEFR and is internationally recognized. It is therefore important to understand and, eventually, to take the exam. Although it is internationally recognized, it is not (yet) recognized by the government of Canada for language proficiency qualifications. The federal government uses its own test based classifies results into three categories: A, B or C.

The DELF exam is classified in the following levels: A1, A2, B1, B2 and, C1, C2 (A1 being the most beginner level and C2 the most advanced). The Calgary Board of Education offers the exam free of charge to enrolled students, whereas the Alliance Française offers the exam to the wider public for a fee. The importance of the exam is such that most universities in Canada offer it. For the University of Calgary, here is the information.

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