GATINEAU, QC, Feb. 13, 2019 /CNW/ - In a study published today, Commissioner of Official Languages Raymond Théberge called for the Minister of Official Languages to establish a national strategy to address a chronic shortage of French-as-a-second-language (FSL) teachers.
"More than ever, Canadians want their children to have access to the advantages that come with being bilingual, yet at the same time, there is a chronic and critical shortage of FSL teachers," said Commissioner Théberge. "No matter where they live, every child in Canada should have the opportunity to become bilingual."
The federal government has set a goal of increasing Canada's bilingualism rate from 17.9% to 20% by 2036, which it plans to achieve by raising the bilingualism rate of English speakers. While this is a laudable goal, according to the study, reaching it will require focusing on recruiting and retaining FSL teachers.
"To meet the demand for FSL education, we need to focus on teachers," explained Théberge. "So I am calling on the Minister of Official Languages to take on a clear national leadership role to address the chronic FSL teacher shortage in Canada. This will also help the government reach its bilingualism target."
Provinces and territories face common challenges in attracting and retaining FSL teachers. Some FSL teachers report having low status within schools and lack professional development opportunities, which can sway them away from teaching FSL and into the English stream. Also, FSL teachers' ability to work in different areas of the country is hindered by the lack of standardized qualifications in Canada.
There are also unique challenges in Saskatchewan, where enrolment in core French classes is declining while French immersion enrolment is on the rise. As interest in French immersion grows, the province is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit enough FSL teachers, and this is creating competition for resources between school boards. The Baccalauréat en éducation program at the University of Regina is helping to fill some of the gaps by recruiting students and producing a new cohort of French teachers every year.
In addition to a long-term national strategy for FSL teacher recruitment and retention, the Commissioner's study also includes key recommendations, including:
- establishing a national FSL consultation table with provincial and territorial partners and with FSL stakeholder associations;
- standardizing the required FSL language skills and qualifications for teachers across Canada;
- ensuring timely and effective dispensation of funds in the 2018–2023 Action Plan for Official Languages for FSL teacher recruitment and retention; and
- exploring the possibility of granting bursaries under the 2018–2023 Action Plan for Official Languages for teacher candidates seeking to improve their French-language skills and study in other parts of the country—for example, at faculties of education whose FSL teacher education programs are not being filled to capacity.
The Commissioner acknowledged that the government's dedicated funding for FSL teacher recruitment strategies in the Action Plan for Official Languages will help, but stated that a long‑term national strategy is needed to build a sufficient supply of teachers. Achieving sustainable results will require greater collaboration among provinces and territories as well as among ministries, school boards and university faculties of education.
According to Commissioner Théberge, "The strategies that are implemented now will affect an entire generation of second-language learners. The Minister, together with the provinces and territories, must look at sustainable solutions for recruiting and retaining FSL teachers to help build a more bilingual Canada."
Having considered the findings and analysis of the study, and within the parameters of his mandate to promote French and English within Canadian society and in particular to encourage federal institutions to help further that promotion, the Commissioner of Official Languages recommends that the federal minister responsible for official languages assume a clear national leadership role in addressing the challenges in FSL teacher supply and demand. The Minister should also continue to work with the provinces and territories and community stakeholders to identify the best strategies and measures to attract more candidates into FSL education programs and retain FSL teachers.
More specifically, the minister should:
The Commissioner also invites the minister to:
SOURCE Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
For further information: Antonia Papadakou, Manager, Public Affairs, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, Telephone: 819-420-4879, Toll-free: 1-877-996-6368, Cellular: 613-808-9499, E-mail: [email protected]