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  • Writer's pictureMatt Harrison

Fear of failure

This school year, I'm nervous for the students, including my daughter, who will begin Hadley's Grade 7 French immersion stream. This is a program where applicants had to take a French exam and where only a limited number of students were accepted into the program.

In addition to acclimatizing to a new school, hundreds of more students, and longer bus rides, I suspect my daughter's biggest challenge will be taking the majority of her courses in French. Wakefield Elementary has done a great job preparing her for the past six years with their 60 per cent English/40 per cent French immersion curriculum. But will it be enough to succeed in Hadley's much beefier French immersion stream?

My biggest concern for her: what happens if she can't keep up? I imagine that, if she does struggle, I might reassure her by saying: “Try your best; we can always pull you out of the immersion stream.” Yet, thanks to The Coalition Avenir Québec's (CAQ) Bill 96, pulling her out may no longer be a simple option.

Bill 96 will place caps on enrolment in English CEGEPs and force English students to take more French, among other impacts. If she does end up struggling in the French immersion stream and we pull her out, are we then setting her up for failure down the road? How about the majority of other Hadley students who didn't apply for the French immersion stream or didn't get in due to limited space?

(The Low Down reached out to principal Dodie Payne for exact numbers on available spots and those who applied for 2022, as well as dropout rates in the French immersion stream from junior high to high school, but, given the timing so close to the start of school, she said she was unable to accommodate our request in time.)

In that scenario, what hurdles could my daughter – and anyone else not in French immersion – face in a CEGEP system, which, under Bill 96, intends to cap spots for English students and requires them to take a roster of French courses, and where poor grades at this point in their education will severely affect their applications for universities?

On this point, a whopping 60 per cent of students are expected not to graduate from CEGEP due to the requirements for French laid out by Bill 96, according to Heritage Faculty College Association president Leslie Elliott — 60 per cent!

Hence the push for French immersion. But that's placing a lot of pressure on both the child and the parent. Will that pressure to succeed in the French immersion stream inadvertently damage her current love of learning, including her confidence?

(Hadley's French immersion program outline admits that students' grade levels can drop in the first year of the program).

Hopefully, she'll succeed, and I won't have to face this dilemma. But I can't help thinking about those students who didn't apply or weren't accepted into the French immersion stream. Is their future success in education in this province in peril?

Education is paramount. Our children should be able to succeed in school whether they speak French or not; whether in a French immersion program or not. Nor should their future success depend on whether or not they were able to attend a French immersion stream that limits the number of students who can attend. And above all, political whims should be kept out of the classroom.

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