School board candidates boost bilingualism

By Robert Frank

Want to ensure that French kids graduate with better written and spoken French skills? Send them to an English school.

Jennifer Maccarone, who is leading the EducACTION ticket into the upcoming Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) election, Nov. 2, pointed out that kids who graduate from English schools here are earning higher marks on the same French exams that students in French schools must pass.

“What we’re doing is working,” she told The Suburban. “Our graduation rates in the exit exams is superior to those of our French counterparts. I’m talking about the français langue maternelle that the French mother-tongue students write. That’s why our campaign slogan is ‘An English eduation, a bilingual future.’”

Last year, Quebec Family Minister and Minister for Laval Francine Charbonneau pointed that, paradoxically, these strong bilingual skills are giving English-school graduages an advantage in Quebec’s job market.

“English school boards are working hard. Students graduating from English high schools are bilingual—sometimes more bilingual than students from French school boards,” Charbonneau told fellow legislators while sitting as an opposition MNA, May 23, 2013. She said that she preferred English schools’ constructive approach to promoting French over the Parti québécois preference for coercion.

Maccarone’s opponent, Steve Bletas, who leads the Students First ticket, is also keen to boost bilingual education here.

“There’s no question that one of our priorities is to develop special immersion and concentration programs in different areas so that our kids come out of our high schools wellversed [in French],” he told The Suburban.

Bletas’ wants bolster French instruction for vocational students who will enter the workforce after they graduate. He also wants to give SWLSB students the opportunity to move far beyond mere bilingualism.

“My dream is to have a school of international languages,” he said in an interview.

Maccarone reassured parents whose children struggle with their second language of the need to tailor bilingual education to students’ needs.

“We actually have a lot of options and variety right now,” she observed, citing her experience with her two autistic children.

“My kids are in an English program because their special needs mean that language learning is an issue for them,” Maccarone explained. “If you were to put them in an environment where they have to learn French, it would be a challenge.”

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