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Advocacy group releases French-language education report

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 06/26/2018 11:23 AM

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The authors of a new report on French-language education in Manitoba put forth two proposals they believe will help the province meet the growing demand for Francophone instruction in K-12 classrooms.

Published earlier this month by community-based advocacy group Partners for French Education, the five-page report calls on Education Minister Ian Wishart to appoint a bilingual deputy minister of education, reinstate an assistant deputy minister for French education, and restructure the department to allow more external input from Francophone groups.

Conscious of the cost of reinstating a senior administrative position, the Partners suggested existing director positions could be shuffled.

Just over half of Manitoba’s K-12 student population studies French in school, the report claims, including immersion environments.

The report is a response to changes within Manitoba Education and Training over the last 18 months. A department spokesperson explained two assistant deputy minister positions—one overseeing English-language instruction, the other French—were amalgamated between December 2016 and October 2017.

The report bemoans the move as one that "affects programming negatively" by failing to reflect the needs of the province’s Francophone community.

But a spokesperson for Wishart said the minister still receives regular updates on French-language education from the director of the Bureau de l’education francaise (BEF).

"There are there currently no director vacancies the department is hoping to fill," the department’s spokesperson added.

The Partners also want the province to create a new administrative structure to oversee the French-language development of students from preschool to career.

An advisory group, comprised of leaders from French-language school divisions, institutions, and parallel organizations, like the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (DSFM) and Universite de Saint-Boniface, would provide input.

The pilot project could eventually become a template for other provinces, the Partners said.

In a prepared statement, Wishart said the report contained "many interesting and valuable proposals" and pledged to continue dialoging with its authors.

The department continues to sift through findings from an April summit on French education, and will examine Francophone concerns during its upcoming review of the K-12 education system in Manitoba, the minister added.

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