CPF Ontario sends an open letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce in response to his announcement on Friday, June 20, 2020, on Ontario’s back-to-school plans for September.
July 3, 2020
Canadian Parents for French (Ontario)
Re: Ontario’s Plan to Reopen Schools
We listened to your announcement on Friday, June 20, 2020 and read “Ontario’s Framework for Continued Learning” with great interest and concern for back to school plans for September 2020. Of course, the health and safety of students, teachers, school staff and their families are the most important consideration. However, the plan for continuing our children’s education in the fall and throughout the pandemic also needs to address student achievement, student engagement and measures that will be in place to ensure our children are not academically behind indefinitely.
Our Ontario French as a Second Language (FSL) programs provide the opportunity for more than 730,000 Core French students, 33,000 Extended French students and 230,000 French Immersion students to learn French. FSL programs are designed for students whose families do not speak French. French proficiency is developed in the classroom with qualified teachers who are fluent in French and is dependent on the time the student is engaged in listening, reading and speaking in French.
‘Learn at Home’ for FSL has been enormously challenging for students, parents and teachers since schools closed in March. We are very concerned that Core, Extended and French Immersion students will have significant gaps when regular school resumes, particularly those with special education needs, families who have limited or no French fluency and families with limited access to the internet and/or with limited computer capabilities. We are also concerned that the loss of momentum in FSL teaching and learning will discourage students from completing Core, Extended and French Immersion programs to grade 12. During ‘Learn at Home’, many parents have accessed educational resources in French,
particularly websites and webinars that provide guidance in English on how to find and use French resources and tools effectively for younger children. Guidance and resources that support the Ontario FSL curriculum has been provided by IDÉLLO (Groupe Média TFO Education platform) and by Canadian Parents for French (Ontario). Independent and motivated older students have found the many quality online FSL resources and support through their teachers and school boards and through virtual camps and socio-cultural events. However, the awareness and availability of these resources and opportunities are not as widespread as they could be, and the resources and tools do not always provide English information to guide parents. Even information provided in English can present an additional
challenge for families with younger children who speak a language other than English or French at home.
With school boards now advised to prepare for 3 scenarios for September, school as normal, hybrid of in-person and remote learning and/or remote learning, there is a pressing need over the summer to work collaboratively with all partners to bolster the efforts to support Core, Extended and French Immersion students and FSL teaching and learning in all possible scenarios.
We recommend that the Ministry of Education:
1. Consult with Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) on how to better support parents in accessing resources available in French to support their children’s ‘Learn at Home’ efforts in FSL, including improving the FSL mention on the ‘Learn at Home’ webpage;
2. Reconvene the FSL Provincial Working Group online immediately to provide input and feedback to the Ministry on maintaining and strengthening FSL programs during COVID-19 and on the very pressing issue of increasing the supply of qualified FSL teachers in collaboration with the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and Francophone Affairs.
NB: The FSL Provincial Working Group was initiated by a Minister of Education in 2012, but meetings were suspended in 2018. It convenes stakeholders for collaboration with Ministry officials to advance FSL teaching and learning in Ontario. Stakeholders include Canadian Parents for French (Ontario), professional associations of FSL teachers, school board FSL leaders, academic researchers and Faculties of Education;
3. Continue to work with and support Canadian Parents for French (Ontario) to help parents help their children overcome the gaps in FSL learning being created by COVID-19;
4. Provide additional funds to IDÉLLO to expand the reach and resources for online resources and learning of FSL during COVID-19;
5. Coordinate and maximize collaboration between the French First Language branch and the Field Services Branch (FSL) to support all JK-12 students who have not had the benefit of hearing and speaking French in school, which is essential to developing and maintaining proficiency in the language since March 2020 and potentially into the 2020-21 school year;
6. Address and provide necessary funds for maintaining students’ health and safety on yellow school busses and public transit in support of continued access to French Immersion/Extended programs.
We appreciate that this has been an extraordinary and difficult time in education. We look forward to helping the Ministry of Education through COVID-19 challenges and to helping Ontario meet our commitment to increasing the number of Ontario grade 12 graduates with proficiency in French.
Denise Massie, President
Canadian Parents for French – Ontario
Sam Oosterhoff, Parliamentary Assistant
Minister Caroline Mulroney
Jeff Brennan, Director of Stakeholder Relations, Office of the Minister of Education
Crystal Mason, Executive Assistant, Office of the Parliamentary Assistant to the
Minister of Education
Anthony Matar, Policy Advisor, Office of the Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs
Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education
Denys Giguère, Assistant Deputy Minister, French-Language Teaching, Learning and
Dr. Parm Bhatthal, Director Field Services Branch
Rebecca Richardson, Senior Policy Advisor FSL Policy and Implementation Unit
Josette Bosc, President, Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association
Betty Gormley, Executive Director, Canadian Parents for French (Ontario)