Look hard at English schools

In last week's issue of the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph we read that the Central Qu├ębec School Board is "celebrating increased enrolment" in its schools. No one can deny that is good news.

However, there is a worrisome reality that neither your article nor, more importantly, the commissioners themselves seem to be addressing.

That is the decrease of 8% over the past years in the number of native English speakers in those same schools. (Le Soleil, March 3,2009)

This has a number of repercussions, among them is that our English
schools are increasingly francophone, which, particularly at the elementary level, turns them more into second-language schools.

The school board will tell you that they have that base covered with their integration programs, but speaking a language does not change one's roots. We only have to look at the low literacy levels in French in ethnic communities in Montreal to realize that the language spoken outside school has an important impact on performance in school. (I'm also sure that teachers would have another view on this question to the one expressed by the board.)

Our students' level of English will decline even more with the decline of enrolment of native English speakers, in part because teachers must -- to be effective -- dilute their teaching, for example, at the level of the vocabulary they use.

The question needs to be asked as to why we are not attracting this part of the population.

I submit that one of the reasons at the secondary level is that our schools are unable to respond adequately to the desire for higher performance academic programs -- for example an international (school) option.

Meanwhile, French public and private schools are developing high quality English programs that respond to the needs of French and English speakers alike.

I am not sure what will motivate our school board to take a good hard look at this question, but it needs to be done if we are going to convince the diminishing number of English speakers to register with us.

Broad, vision-based change is what is called for here. Celebrate, yes, but let's
not set aside this other reality. Bubbles burst, and so well may ours.

Terrance Keller
Quebec City