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 Quebec, where FSL teachers are in high demand in both the English- and French-language school boards. French-language school boards must provide FSL classes to immigrant and refugee children to help them reach the required level of French-language proficiency. English and French school boards also provide French-language training to immigrant and refugee adults to help them integrate into Quebec society and the workforce. Additional competition for FSL teachers comes from other educational institutions, such as universities and CEGEPs, and from community organizations that offer FSL classes.
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:
- establish a national FSL consultation table with provincial and territorial partners and with FSL stakeholder associations, and develop and lead a long-term national strategy for FSL teacher recruitment and retention. The strategy should take into account the particular needs of different FSL programs and of English-speaking communities, including in Quebec, with the goal of implementing sustainable solutions with tangible impacts that can be duplicated across the country;
- work with provincial and territorial partners and professional teacher associations to encourage greater standardization of teachers' required FSL language competency and other relevant qualifications and to implement measures to support teachers in their efforts to improve their language proficiency and their linguistic and cultural confidence;
- work closely with provincial and territorial partners to lead the development and promotion of a free, federally funded, on-line job search platform wherein school boards from across Canada can advertise job postings for FSL positions, and through which teachers can apply to several different postings using the same profile; and
- ensure a timely and effective dispensation of funds in the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018–2023: Investing in Our Future for FSL teacher recruitment and retention, taking into consideration the specific challenges in FSL teacher recruitment and retention in different FSL programs, including in Quebec.
- ask provincial ministries and faculties of education to consider working and communicating more closely with local school boards and professional teacher associations to address challenges and create more FSL teacher candidate university placements and more second-language, cultural and professional skills development opportunities for current teachers;
- explore the possibility of granting bursaries under the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018–2023: Investing in Our Future 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 at capacity;
- engage in a promotional campaign to raise awareness among FSL high school students of the opportunities and requirements involved in pursuing a career in FSL education—the campaign should promote and affirm the value of all FSL education programs, from Core French to French Immersion;
- work with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to explore ways to facilitate the process for French-speaking immigrants coming to Canada with a degree in education from their country of origin and to help them successfully integrate into Canadian FSL teaching positions and classrooms.
SOURCE Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages