Canadian Parents for French Celebrates National Inclusive Education Month: An Open Letter to Canadian Parents
OTTAWA, ON – February is National Inclusive Education Month, a special awareness celebration enthusiastically supported by Canadian Parents for French and its 23,000 members. These parents believe that every Canadian child should have the opportunity to become bilingual so he or she can participate fully in Canada’s economy, governance and society.
“Canada has a publicly funded school system that offers enriched forms of education but it restricts access to it. We have a school system within a school system where some kids get full resources for learning and some kids don’t. There are serious ethical as well as legal issues here. Can we justify publicly supported French immersion education and not give full access to all resources needed to succeed?”
Genesee, F. (2012) CPF Roundtable on Academically-Challenged Students and FSL Programs, Canadian Parents for French, Ottawa.
The reluctance of school boards and school authorities to adapt to the needs of students with learning disabilities in immersion has denied universal access to effective French-second-language learning. Despite over 40 years of research demonstrating that at-risk students can become bilingual and attain levels of first-language and academic ability commensurate with their learning challenges, these children are often weeded out from immersion and placed in the English stream.
As a parent, you may be told that your child should master their first language before learning a second – that learning a second language would be overtaxing for your struggling learner and would jeopardize your child’s first language. You may also be told that there are no effective interventions or resources for struggling students in French-Second-Language programs.
There is no evidence to support the belief that students who are at risk for poor academic performance are at greater risk in immersion than in English-only programs. Indeed, research shows that effective interventions do exist and that there is notable improvement in special need student performance in French immersion when appropriate assistance is provided.
In 2016, there is no place for capping French immersion enrolment, running lotteries, failing to provide remedial services or excluding less academically-challenged students —practices which deny parents the chance to choose the best educational programs for their child. It is time for educators and policy-makers to adopt more inclusionary practices and to move the issue of equitable access for all students in Canada from a place of discussion to a place of action.
Although it may be difficult, you can be a strong advocate for your child’s inclusion in French immersion and other FSL programs. By meeting teachers, principals and school district decision-makers you can assist with changing policies and practices which exclude or fail to provide appropriate academic support for struggling immersion and core French students. You can help to change educators’ beliefs about struggling learners in FSL programs by challenging myths with factual information about academically-challenged students’ second-language learning achievements, about the benefits of more inclusive classroom practices and about special education interventions that help learning. Happily, some jurisdictions have begun to adopt more inclusionary practices in response to parents who share research evidence and advocate on behalf of their child.
For assistance advocating for your child, please see our fact sheets for parents, teachers and advocates at http://cpf.ca/en/research-
The State of French-Second-Language Education in Canada research reports examine how well French-second-language (FSL) programs are faring across Canada, using common …
Canadian Parents for French is a national network of volunteers which values French as an integral part of Canada and is dedicated to the promotion and creation of French-second-language learning opportunities for all those who call Canada home.
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