The Supreme Court ruling clearly stated last June that francophone students in British Columbia had the right to receive an education equivalent to that received by their anglophone peers. In principle, everyone should be happy. And yet …
André Magny – Local Journalism Initiative – APF – West
Following an extraordinary virtual meeting of the Board of Directors (CA) of French-speaking school board of British Columbia (CSF) held on June 30, it was decided by 4 votes to 3 that the heterogeneous system should give way to a homogeneous system by September 2021. The next school year will mark the last year of the heterogeneous system. In other words, the CSF will abandon the offer of courses in French and English to provide only courses in French.
In a press release issued following the board meeting, the CSF was delighted to see that henceforth, “parents from Sechelt, Nanaimo, Prince George, Powell River, Campbell River, Nelson, Penticton and Revelstoke ”will be entitled“ to much more than two or four courses in French ”. In addition, we learn that “the board of directors of the CSF has mandated its executives to improve the educational experience offered there. “
Lack of consultation?
“The homogeneous system is the best education that we can offer our children,” said Marie-Andrée Asselin, Executive Director of the Federation of Francophone Parents of British Columbia (FPFCB). “The downside is that we would have liked to be consulted. The CSF seems to have taken alone the decision of the timetable leading to the dissolution of the heterogeneous system.
Ione Smith is a mother of a family and involved in her Francophone community. She is president of the Association des parents de Pacific School and of the French-speaking program of Chatelech. She lives in Sechelt. She too is disappointed with the way the CSF behaved with the parents. “Please understand, we have the same goal. Give the best to our children, she says. It is the way the CSF made its decision that bothers us. We were not consulted. ”
In Sechelt, according to Ms. Smith, there are 32 francophone families with approximately 55 children. Ms. Smith wonders what Francophone students will do if schools are not built by September 2021.
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In a letter addressed to the president of the board of directors of the CSF, Marie-Pierre Lavoie, Ione Smith expresses the fears that pervade the parents. “We fear in the end,” she says, “that if parents (or young people) have to choose between an all-French program in an educational setting limit and an English-speaking program in a socially and academically richer environment, they are likely to opt for this second option. This would obviously weaken the number of graduates in French. A solution ? “Instead of aiming for a homogeneous program separate from the rest of the students in their age group,” she explains, “we would find it much more advisable for the CSF to seek to improve the heterogeneous program that currently exists, in particular seeking to expand the number of courses offered in French. “
What does the CSF respond to parents who say they would have liked to be consulted before the implementation of this new structure? Nothing. Despite repeated requests for interviews and despite the return from vacation of some members of the Board, the response was always the same: “It will not be possible to do interviews. “
Invest in the heterogeneous system
Élise Therrien graduated from high school at the start of the summer. She attended Nanaimo High School – the Nanaimo District Secondary School. She got to know the heterogeneous system there. They were 50 francophones in a school of 1,500 students. The graduating cohort consisted of 7 students.
It didn’t traumatize her. “Me, I really liked it, she says, but personally, I was involved in the student council of the school as a whole and in the French-speaking student council. In addition, the francophones, we each had our computer, a Mac Book provided by the CSF, but not the anglophones. The one who will continue her studies at the University of Victoria in biology was also active in a few sports teams at her school.
Hiring new teachers
When we approach the question of the end of the heterogeneous system, two questions come to Elise’s mind: “Will there be enough French-speaking students in the homogeneous system and will there be enough teachers to teach all subjects in French? “
For the president of British Columbia Francophone Program Teachers Union (SEPF), Stéphane Bélanger, there are no concerns for those who will come after her. “There will be more teachers to hire in all areas,” he replies. And with smaller classes? ” Without a doubt. It may be nice tasks. “
However, will the government of British Columbia have enough money to build new schools for small classes? “The Supreme Court ruling ruled that the question of money could not be raised so as not to build French-speaking schools! », Retorts the trade unionist, all in all optimistic about the future.