Quebec groups worry Bill 96 will impact students’ success

“This will be a barrier for students, a barrier to success,” said Cindy Finn, Director General of the Lester B. Pearson School Board about how Quebec’s updated language law will impact students. Brittany Henriques reports.

By Brittany Henriques

Some English schools, students and parents are worried that Quebec’s updated language law will impact English students’ ability to graduate CEGEP.

Bill 96 would require them to pass three of their regular program courses in French.

“My concern is that this will be a barrier for students a barrier to success,” said Cindy Finn, director-general of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

“We’re talking about being evaluated in French for your history or physics course so we should expect a fair number of students who will simply not master those competencies,” said Christian Corno, director-general of Marianopolis College. “So either they will fail said courses, take an extra semester perhaps, but in some cases, it will likely impact a number of students in terms of not being able to graduate.”

“Parents are telling me basically they don’t know how to protect their child’s future,” said Katherine Korakakis, president of the English Parents’ Committee Association. “Do they sell their house to move to another province? Do they find a new job again? Not every parent can afford to do that,” she implores. “Do they spend significant money on tutors? The anxiety from parents, I never felt anything like this even given the pandemic.

“That’s the regular-stream kids, I’m not even touching on the special needs kids that won’t even have an option,” said Korakakis who’s personally affected by the amendment. “If I look at my son, there’s a politician telling me that my son after high school is done with school and there’s nowhere else to go because there’s no way he can pass three classes in French at the CEGEP level.”

The legislation includes multiple amendments restricting the access to English-language CEGEPs in the name of protecting the French language, including the number of students who can attend English CEGEPs.

Vanier college

Vanier CEGEP (Photo CityNews)

Groups are calling it discrimination.

“There’s a bit of an intent, I think, that is to clearly diminish the weight of English schools in the system,” said Corno.

“A French course to learn a language that is “Francais, langue seconde” is a very different enterprise than taking a course in a specific subject area in French,” says Finn. “So this amendment mixes apples and oranges […] the concern is not so much that we haven’t prepared our students with a good level of bilingualism — we have.

Some parents are worried the bill moves further away from what is actually needed.

“This has nothing to do with being anti-French or not wanting our children to be bilingual,” said Korakakis. “English-speaking parents have lobbied the government to have access to more French immersion programs, to have access to more teachers that can teach French in schools and we cannot mistake one with the other.”

President of the Dawson Student Union, Alexandrah Cardona said students at Dawson College are stunned and frustrated.

“Students have shown ongoing demand to increase the options and diversity of the French curriculum in anglophone CEGEPs and particularly at Dawson,” said Cardona.

“But again, no one saw coming the mandatory core courses and so the reason this is an important distinction that’s causing a lot of anxiety for students is that these courses are highly technical and not just in the technical programs, even in the pre-university programs. These core courses may be fundamental to the overall success in their programs.”

Some say, the issue goes beyond language politics.

“It is somewhat ironic that on the one hand, the government is asking for more graduates in the health care sector for example,” said Corno. “On the other hand, he’s introducing a bill on language that may actually cause students to not complete their studies so, therefore, worsening the labour shortage.”

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