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Struggle to learn from a distance

In a context of uncertainties fueled by the Covid-19, many English-speaking Alberta families are willing to allow their children to continue learning French, at a distance. The network of volunteers Canadian Parents for French tried to bring their voice to the government. Without success.

Maxime Mainieri

In early September, the Canadian Parents for French association sent a letter to the Government of Alberta. Behind this initiative, the goal of the network of volunteers is to obtain more distance learning opportunities in French as a second language, for students of all levels. An operation claiming to take over from the French Immersion program. Aimed at English-speaking students from Kindergarten to Grade 12, the latter involves exclusive instruction in French. Sciences, social studies, mathematics… All school subjects can be concerned.

Occurring a few days later, the government’s return is far from having fulfilled the association’s expectations. “It was explained to us that French Immersion is an alternative program and therefore the responsibility of each school”, reports Michael Tryon. The executive director of Canadian Parents for French Alberta deplores the lack of support from the minister of the department who, according to him, could “help school boards and share the reserves of public funds”. It also suggests more solidarity between the different School Councils. At present, 42 of them give French courses in the province.

Addressing the resource gap

From the point of view of the volunteer network, the issues are multiple. “It is important that students can continue to take their courses remotely,” says Michael Tryon. This reaction follows numerous requests from parents of students, worried that their children will be forced to stop the French Immersion program if they do not quickly find their way back to school.

Michael Tryon is the Executive Director of Canadian Parents for French Alberta.

The general manager of the association estimates that between “90% and 95%” of them do not speak French. Thus, they want to give access to another culture to their children and “that they can speak the two official languages ​​of their country”, he adds. To support them, Canadian Parents for French Alberta has set up an online network in which volunteers provide, on request, various media such as books, facilitating understanding of French. “90 families are registered,” says Michael Tryon.

The association also wishes to intervene directly with the school boards offering the French Immersion program and grouped within the organization Alberta French Language Eduction Consortium. It seeks to determine whether, in the future, its volunteers will be able to work in order to compensate for the lack of resources of the establishments, in particular in terms of distance training. To this end, a first meeting is scheduled for early October. The fight goes on.

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