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Gazette exclusive: EMSB pitches 'tout en français'

Board woos new students by promoting its French-language education

 

By BRENDA BRANSWELL, Gazette Education Reporter

January 7, 2010

 

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The English Montreal School Board building on Fielding Ave. in NDG.

 

MONTREAL – When the English Montreal School Board kicks off its new marketing campaign at an elementary school today, it will do so tout en français to make a point.

 

With elementary school registration looming next month, the EMSB wants to court new students to its English schools by promoting its French-language education.

 

The board, whose youth sector enrolment has shrunk by nearly 4,000 students since 2004, is eyeing this group in particular to help fill its ranks: There were 13,774 Quebec students in 2007-08 who were eligible for English schools but attended French ones instead, according to provisional figures from the Education Department.

 

"There's no question that as a school board, we've lost kids to the French sector because people feel that the quality of education in the French language may be better within the French sector," said Angela Mancini, the board's chairperson.

 

"From our perspective - and I think that of many of our parents - that's not at all the case.

 

"We're giving the kids an advantage in learning two languages in our schools."

 

The board's marketing campaign will include spots in French-language community weeklies and feature the slogan that at the EMSB, "Le français fait toute la différence!"

 

The EMSB will also unveil a promotional video today, showing its students and staff speaking only in French.

 

"I think by doing (the news conference) in French, it's illustrating exactly what we're trying to point out," said Michael Cohen, the board's communications and marketing specialist.

 

"We're trying to send a message out that we are, for French-speaking students ... a very good place to go."

 

To English parents who are sending their children to French school, the board says it guarantees their children will graduate fully bilingual after attending its French immersion program.

 

"I think the English school system, by and large, is doing a better job than they have been in educating the kids in French," said Lawrence DePoe, executive director of the Quebec branch of Canadian Parents for French, who appears in the EMSB promotional video.

 

But DePoe also said it is important for school boards to keep improving. He referred to a report released by the Quebec Community Groups Network last year about a consultation with 400 English-speaking young people age 16 to 29. They said they wanted more French-language training.

 

The report also noted that among those who took part, the average felt they were proficient in spoken French and could write "some" French.

 

"In other words, most could communicate well in French, but not well enough to work professionally or attend higher education in French," the report said.

 

Several English school boards in Quebec have been reviewing their French programs and are moving to improve their quality and the amount of French instruction time, DePoe said.

 

The Lester B. Pearson School Board intends to boost the amount of French students are exposed to inside and outside the classroom in its elementary and high schools. Many parents told the board last year during a public consultation that they wanted more French in schools.

 

The EMSB also plans to forge ahead with a review of its French programs. The board offers core, bilingual and French immersion programs at the elementary level. It says that over the course of an elementary education, a student receives 32 per cent of instruction in French in the core program, 47 per cent in a bilingual program and 68 per cent in immersion. Programs vary at the high school level.

 

Mancini acknowledged the board has to do a selling job because it is losing students to the French school system who are allowed to attend English schools.

 

"I think that we need to let them know what's happening in the English-sector schools in terms of French-language (instruction)."

 

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http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Gazette+exclusive+EMSB+pitches+tout+fran%C3%A7ais/2414008/story.html

 

This is much needed. And not all of it should be spent on grammar reciting either (as is often the case). I think a big part is just being able to learn to get use out of it. Practice comprehension and conversational skills first, then worry about written skills. Although I had great French teachers in school, how was I (or anyone else) to become fluent by spending only 4-5 hours a week on it? This compared to living the rest of the week entirely in English (except for the Habs/Expos game back in the day).

 

Having said that, English instruction should be toughened up as well. The quality of written English of a good portion of university peers is downright abysmal. They should have to pass a stringent English exam to get accepted into a regular program (if they fail, they should take a year-long mini program designed at teaching them proper written and spoken English). From what I have heard, they offer English-Second-Language courses that are taught by immigrants with heavy accents (notably from Ukraine and China). WTF?

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http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Gazette+exclusive+EMSB+pitches+tout+fran%C3%A7ais/2414008/story.html

 

This is much needed. And not all of it should be spent on grammar reciting either (as is often the case). I think a big part is just being able to learn to get use out of it. Practice comprehension and conversational skills first, then worry about written skills. Although I had great French teachers in school, how was I (or anyone else) to become fluent by spending only 4-5 hours a week on it? This compared to living the rest of the week entirely in English (except for the Habs/Expos game back in the day).

 

Having said that, English instruction should be toughened up as well. The quality of written English of a good portion of university peers is downright abysmal. They should have to pass a stringent English exam to get accepted into a regular program (if they fail, they should take a year-long mini program designed at teaching them proper written and spoken English). From what I have heard, they offer English-Second-Language courses that are taught by immigrants with heavy accents (notably from Ukraine and China). WTF?

 

It is about time. When I entered McGill in 1969, I was shocked and embarrassed that my four years of US high school French gave me a better understanding of French and I was better able to communicate in French than most of my Montreal born and raised anglo classmates. I learned very quickly what the "two solitudes" meant. I also tired quickly of the anglo attitude of not wanting French "rammed down their throats". Hell, they were living in Montreal!!! When I asked why this attitude was common among Montreal anglos, the response was "You're American, you don't understand". Well, neither did they!

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Bravo pour le EMSB. Je suis ravi que cette commission scolaire s'attaque à un problème flagrant. Non seulement est-il important qu'un élève soit complètement bilingue à sa sortie du ''high school" pour des raisons pratiques et d'employabilités mais surtout, et surtout pour que l'élève en question puisse prendre entièrement part à la société québécoise et non pas se sentir exclu parce que son français n'est pas à la hauteur.

 

Le EMSB fait preuve de lucidité, d'ouverture d'esprit et de réalité.

 

De lucidité car l'enseignement du français dans les écoles anglophones est déficient et consitue un problème majeur d'intégration des jeunes anglophones.

 

De réalité car il est important de composer avec la ""réalité'' Québecoise et un meilleur enseignement en français va surement ouvrir des portes à plusieurs d'entres eux au lieu de les pousser vers le ROC.

 

D'ouverture d'esprit car il est temps que le système scolaire anglophone participe pleinement à la valorisation du français autant que de l'anglais et ce, tant au niveau qualitatif que quantitatif.

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