Want to raise a bilingual kid? Send them to English school, EMSB claims
The English Montreal School Board has launched a new campaign to demonstrate the quality of French being taught at its institutions.
Year after year, parents who are eligible to send their children to English schools choose a French board instead, concerned that their children will not master the French language at an English school.
The campaign includes billboards and TV commercials that demonstrate the fluency of EMSB students.
Angela Mancini, chair of the EMSB, said many parents don't realize that children in immersion schools are taught entirely in French until grade three -- and then spend half of their time in both official languages.
“I think we need to let parents know who have chosen to go to the French sector that our quality of French is so high. It's a message that we have been trying to send out for many years,” she said.
Mancini estimates that across the province, about 14,000 students who are going to French schools could be going to schools run by an English administration.
"Certainly with Bill 101 in place, we already lose a lot of students that don't have eligibility, so when we also lose students who would have had eligibility, it has an effect on our numbers and it would definitely bolster enrolment to have them back into our system," said Mancini.
Some years, English school boards lose more than 500 students – and the boards often have to consider closing schools.
“We can't take any of the immigrants even from the United States, Australia, England. English-language communities, our population is shrinking. If we had every English-eligible student in Quebec go to English schools, our population would still be shrinking,” said Suanne Stein Day, chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
English school boards in Quebec consistently rate as academically superior to their francophone counterparts.
In Quebec in 2015, 77.7 per cent of students graduated from high school within seven years of entering.
Every English school board had a higher percentage of students graduate, with the EMSB having the top graduation rate in Quebec (87.9 per cent) -- closely followed by five other English school boards.
Only one French school board cracked the top five in terms of its student graduation rate.
This year the EMSB lost about 50 students, but Mancini said the trend could be reversed if parents realized the EMSB is dedicated to producing bilingual students.
"We're talking about graduating bilingual students in a province and a country that, I guess is a bilingual country and also the province is a bilingual province, even though French is the mother tongue," of most residents, she said.
Stein Day said the only solution for them has been to use French more consistently.
“Yes, we still speak English, yes, we still teach English at least 20 per cent of the day, but anywhere from 50 to 80 per cent of the day is in French. The language in the hallway becomes French, the language in the schoolyards becomes French,” she said, adding that there are other reasons to choose English schools. “We have higher success rates, we have innovation in our schools that are amazing in terms of technology, robotics, science and arts programs.”