The MoE has sparked some outrage with a document that seems to propose allowing children to choose to learn a second language other than French in BC public education, but is this really a big deal?
First of all, if our current practice of requiring children to take French classes is kid-focused-that is, truly in the best interest of kids–then I’m all for it. One hundred and ten percent. But, if the practice is more rooted in tradition, and not necessarily for the benefit of children, then it’s worth a look.
Secondly, I love that Quebec is part of Canada. The fact that our country has evolved as a mix of British and French influence is what makes us unique as a nation. The French influence on our Canadian culture, our legal system, and our arts/music scene has been the perfect counter balance to our uptight, stodgy British roots.
Is it possible, though, to talk practically about the value of kids in BC learning French without being labelled as something horrible? Probably not, but here I go…
Every school district is going to have something in their strategic plan or mission statement about preparing kids for the future, or enabling kids to succeed–something like that. So, is French the language that will give them the best chance in the future? Or, perhaps more importantly, should kids and their families decide that, or should it be mandated?
Certainly French instruction should be available, but there are valid reasons why BC families would choose a different language, the first of which being that their kids may not ever speak (or hear) French outside of the classroom. We all know that if you don’t practise languages your retention is pretty low. There are many languages that are much more relevant to BC communities.
What about travelling? How many BCers travel to French speaking places for holidays (or business?) I’m going to guess that Spanish would be more useful for most snowbirds.
Of course, there are currently jobs in Canada that require fluency in French and English, but how many strive to become federal bureaucrats? I sense that requirement softening anyway, and predict that it will continue to do so.
So what does trying to teach French to kids where French is rarely spoken really accomplish? Of course it doesn’t hurt, but aren’t there other languages that would better serve them in today’s world. How about Mandarin? With China poised to take over the world, our kids might be looked upon more favourably by the next superpower if they can speak the lingua franca.
Of course, how we do this is another issue entirely. It’s unlikely, for instance, that we will be offering Kazakhstani in our Sunshine Coast public schools anytime soon, regardless of the constant pleas to do so. It’s probably not feasible in smaller districts, at least not within our traditional methods of delivery. With online learning though…
But that’s getting into the how of the problem. Let’s focus on if.
Does this issue deserve a look? To answer you must first consider two questions:
Would children be better served through more language options?
Have you ever sang the third line of Frere Jacques as, “Sonya la Martinez! Sonya la Martinez!?”
Be honest. If the answer to either question is “yes” then we owe it to kids to revisit this custom.