One of the questions put to B.C.’s minister of education at a Canadian Parents for French (CPF) regional conference in Parksville last week was why French immersion students are forced to take the FSAs in English.
“They’re at a real disadvantage because children don’t start receiving English language instruction until Grade 4 so these kids, we’re doing it right now at our school, and they are crying every day, because they’re like I can’t do this madame,” said a teacher from Port Alberni.
Education Minister Don McRae responded that the Grade 7’s Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) results are actually on par with the English students’ results. His daughter is currently in Grade 4 in a French immersion program in the Comox Valley, he said, and taking the tests.
“Those are pieces of revision we can look at; however, that reinforces: don’t use the test as a measure of your student’s ability, it’s a snapshot of that day.”
He added he won’t panic if his daughter’s test results on the literacy portion come in low, and he maintained the FSA’s are a useful tool.
McRae, who was a teacher himself for 15 years, said he is striking up a working group within the next month to see how the government can make some changes to the FSA’s to better meet the needs of educators and students.
The CPF is the largest French second language advocacy group in Canada and it was their B.C. and Yukon division who held the conference at the Tigh-Na-Mara. This was the first regional conference the group has held on the Island.
Another question McRae received following his address was whether the government is planning on making French immersion programs more accessible to children in outlying communities or in low income families.
McRae said many people don’t realize the important role school boards play in their communities and that the government wants to make sure trustees recognize the needs in their communities and respond to them.
“As a ministry we’re not pushing that sort of idea other than if (trustees) need assistance we’re there to help them,” he said, adding what communities choose to do depends on the desire in those communities and he encouraged speaking to trustees.
Representatives from CPF Oceanside Chapter were also at the conference and secretary Catherine Buchanan said they hope to enrich the educational and cultural opportunities in the district.
To do this, she said they have a couple of upcoming events, the first is a French language course for parents. This starts Feb. 19 and runs for four Tuesdays at Parksville Elementary School.
Buchanan said often the French language is a barrier for parents who are considering French immersion but wouldn’t be able to communicate with their kids.
The local group is also hosting a French film night at Ballenas Secondary School, which will include pizza dinner.
For more information on the parent French courses, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and check out other event details on their Facebook page: CPF Oceanside.
Look for a feature article on the state of our local French education coming up in The NEWS.