Youth push for anglo school funding

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by admin on June 2, 2010

By Rita Legault

English-speaking youths have a strong sense of attachment to Quebec and to the English-speaking community and they wish to remain in the province. But to do so they require strong schools and strong communities. ”English-speaking schools are critical in forming our identity,” said Nicola Johnston, co-chair of the Quebec Community Groups Network’s Youth Standing Committee. “They are also important centers of community.”

To remain in Quebec, and to make a meaningful contribution to our community and to society, English-speakers require adequate French-language skills to integrate into the job market, Ms. Johnston argued, noting that improving levels of bilingualism will produce fluently bilingual young people who are equipped with the skills they require to stay here.

English schools – public and private – can and do provide French instruction while allowing English-speaking youths to attach to their communities. For example, Secondary IV students from the English Montreal School Board test higher on the Provincial French exam than their Francophone peers. However, because resource allocation is based on enrolment, our community’s schools are being forced to close because the English school population is declining.

Dwindling enrolment in our primary and secondary schools is attributed to an aging population, low birth-rates and a significant number of parents choosing to send their children to the French system. One fifth (21.4 per cent) of English mother-tongue children who could otherwise enrol in the English school system currently attend French schools.

High levels of bilingualism can be a powerful tool to tackle many multi-faceted barriers English-speaking youth face in participating fully in Quebec society, the job market, educational institutions and their communities, said QCGN President Robert Donnelly. “This is good news since English-speaking youth – like their peers in Canada’s other linguistic minority communities- are the most bilingual cohort in Canada.”

The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) and its Youth Standing Committee call on the community and its government partners to ensure the English school system in Quebec is focused on the vitality and sustainability of the English-speaking community. It invites the government of Quebec to explore innovative ways to fund our schools not on the basis of enrolment, but their role as centres of community. The QCGN also supports building more community services in and around schools to foster group identity and cohesion.

Rita Legault represents the Quebec Community Groups Network (www.qcgn.ca), a not-for-profit organization bringing together 32 English language community organizations across Quebec, including the Regional Association of West Quebecers. Its mission is to identify and address strategic issues affecting the development and vitality of English- speaking Quebec.