PQ Education Minister wants less English, more sovereignty
Published Thursday, October 11, 2012 5:55PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 12, 2012 8:18PM EDT
MONTREAL--Interim Liberal leader Jean-Marc Fournier is blasting PQ Education Minister Marie Malavoy's curriculum proposals, which would put the brakes on the learning of English in French schools and increase time spent teaching sovereignty.
Malavoy told Le Soleil newspaper of her plans, which also include a possible halt to the teaching of English in French elementary schools.
Fournier said the ideas were unacceptable when first proposed by former union leader Gerald Larose several years ago and remain unacceptable now.
Fournier also said that Malavoy was trying to whip up fear for of the disappearance of French for partisan gains.
"What she's saying is that, for Quebec's schools, it's less English and more sovereignty," said the Liberals' interim leader, Jean-Marc Fournier.
"Her desire to proceed with a political takeover of our schools must be vigorously resisted."
He said the policies are inspired by the PQ's hardline wing--not by what's best for Quebec.
Malavoy said that she wants to delay a plan to start offering intensive English courses for Grade six students. The course was set to begin in 2015.
She said she wants to abolish the practice of mandatory English lessons starting in Grade 1; slow down the implementation of intensive English in Grade 6; and change a high-school history course to increase the focus on the national-unity debate.
Malavoy reiterated that she supports English instruction.
She just questioned whether the education system was ready for the reforms being prepared by the previous Liberal government, which wanted to introduce intensive English sessions across the province for sixth graders by 2015.
Malavoy said she has been receiving reports about complications with implementing the program.
"Intensive English is something we look kindly upon," Malavoy said. "[But] what do we do with students who have learning difficulties? Until we've answered some of these questions I can't see how we would say, 'We're staying the course,' and it'll be uniform across Quebec in 2015...
"I absolutely hope that Quebec students learn English and learn it well. With respect to the objective, I'm not calling it into question at all."
Since 2006, English classes in French schools have started in grade one. The PQ wants to defer that to grade four.
“We are of the opinion that if you want them to really learn French when they begin school, it’s better not to introduce other languages,” said Malavoy.
But her opponents called into question her priorities.
"It might be her opinion, but there is no scientific evidence to support her fears," said McGill University psychology professor Fred Genesee.
“Because children’s brains are fairly plastic in the early years, they can acquire a second language more quickly, more easily and more naturally.”
According to Genesee, a body of evidence suggests that more languages are better and not worse for cognitive development.
The Coalition Avenir Quebec described the plan as a step in the wrong direction for Quebec. One CAQ critic said it would deprive young Quebecers of a critical "tool" for success in the 21st century economy.
"We need to stop looking at English as Lord Durham and the Plains of Abraham," Gerard Deltell said, referring to the 18th century Seven Years' War in which the United Kingdom gained control of France's Canadian territories.
"They want to instrumentalize education in service of a political cause."
Most parents interviewed by CTV Montreal outside an elementary school in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve said that they want their kids to learn English.
“Two languages is the bare minimum,” said parent Isaac Aylestock.
--with files from The Canadian Press.