Posted by: Sylvia, aka Shucky | September 14, 2010

French Immersion Hell In The GTA

It’s about politics…25% of federal workers across Canada are Quebecois, and they don’t do English common law, they do Bonapartean law (whatever rules bureaucrats put into place can never be changed, or overlooked). They push for a lot of rules that don’t necessarily make any sense. For instance, in Quebec the Ministry Citizenship and Language funds the school board to teach Anglophones and other newcomers French, but because it is not their job to take such names at the Commission Scholaire of people who want to learn, and the Ministry cannot be involved with the workings of the boards, they never have any quotas with which to fill a class. Thus we pay Quebec the money to put on theses courses, but the courses are not held. And if it is not your job to investigate, it will not be investigated, no matter how unjust (or corrupt) this may seem.

So. The powers that be don’t want the children of single parents in French Immersion, and they only way they stay is if they make very good grades or are somehow necessary to keep up the quotas for that school – at least until the numbers are up and the program is safe. There is no help with any special needs whatsoever, and I’ve known one student who was making very good grades, under threat of losing her slot when her brother lost his due to poor performance. I was tutoring the boy, a very average student but slow with the French, and attended the meeting with the principal and MPP. Before mum arrived, they talked freely about the necessity of cranking out these future federal workers and how they don’t have the time or money to waste on any but motivated, successful candidates. They clearly did not want ‘maladjusted’ children from single-parent homes, no matter the status or psychological health of the students, and the only reason this little girl was being kept was because there could be a litigation otherwise. I just sat there quietly and listened to all this, but at least the mother would know to focus on her daughter’s slot and not waste time and energy fighting a losing battle.

My daughter went into a bilingual school that had aggressively recruited for new students, and she was recommended because she was so bright. It was a hellish experience. She was conversant within two months, but the better she did, the more her teacher humiliated her (the woman eventually lost her mind and went on disability). The school was pretty much run as a private school for the children of Francophone teachers, but within the Toronto School System, so every fall all the new kids would come in and get the numbers up for their budget. Then by Christmas, all the kids who had Anglophone single parents were expelled, or whose parents couldn’t pay several hundred dollars into the ‘non-compulsory’ fund for the extra teacher on staff (read two-tier schooling). Incoming and supply teachers who questioned the party line were released and maligned, and children of parents who challenged them were transferred to behavioural programs to justify the expulsions. The year my daughter attended, 22 were referred to Delcrest Children’s Centre, McCaul Street Program, and Hincks Family Treatment Centre. It was brutal, and people stepped up to the plate to stop it. Sadly, the Ministry and the feds knew about all this, but wanted it kept very quiet.

Meanwhile, my son proved almost immediately not to be a good candidate for the program at the local public school, and should have been switched within the first few weeks, but they were trying to pack in as many kids as possible and wouldn’t let him transfer when it became apparent he was struggling. After failing, and feeling humiliated, he excelled in English in no time.

He was, for a couple of years, a good student who loved school, but then he lost everything he’d learned after some near-fatal seizures. After writing stories on the computer, he would now get very frustrated when he couldn’t understand written directions, so he was put into a behavioural program. The new teacher refused to teach him how to read again, so I did, and he learned so quickly I knew something was wrong with the teaching plan. My board’s social worker agreed my son needed some assistance, not behaviour modification, and got permission to do the testing privately and in conjunction with a psycho-educator. It cost a lot of money, but we found out that my son still had a very high IQ but had been left with a severe type of dyslexia. With the proof of the findings I had paid for, I visited the Ministry, who were not happy to see me, but I had their own internal policies with which to fight for my son. A few heads rolled, and he was put into the only LD program in the city and got back on track.

Needless to say, the whole school system has slipped very badly since I was a young lass, and I shake my head with the horror stories I still hear. One would think things would have improved over the years…not gotten worse. Makes me think a lot of people operate on the level of chimpanzees.



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