Québec City –
To improve French proficiency among elementary and high school students, Education Minister Bernard Drainville is proposing, among other things, daily writing exercises.
The pass rate for the Secondary 5 written exam has dropped from 79 per cent in 2019 to 69 per cent in 2022. Only 48 per cent of students achieved a passing grade on the grammar and spelling criterion.
This “decline cannot continue,” said Mr. Drainville at a press conference in Quebec City on Monday.
He unveiled the “orientations” he will give to a group of experts tasked with reviewing French programs between now and 2025. Among other things, he will ask them to give their opinion on the benefits for children of daily writing exercises.
The minister also wants teachers of all subjects to pay attention to the French mistakes made in assignments and exams, and to give students feedback on the quality of their French.
He gave the example of a history teacher who might decide not to correct a paper full of spelling mistakes.
The Ministry of Education will identify the most frequent errors made by students in the French test, and share this picture with teachers, to enable them to better target the actions to be put in place.
Drainville also promised to add French-language pedagogical advisers to schools, who will “support and accompany” teachers who teach other subjects.
At the moment, however, Quebec is struggling to find enough qualified teachers to teach in the classroom: “It’s a huge challenge,” Drainville admitted.
He also said he wanted to integrate more of Quebec’s culture into the teaching of French.
“We can’t afford to watch the results plummet … We need a turnaround. Everyone has to pitch in,” he said.
“French teachers need more support. We have to help them and all the other teachers because the quality of French at school has become a matter for the whole school team,” he added.
For the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), this is a series of “intentions” and “orientations.”
“We want to be part of the discussion at every stage of the process,” said CSQ President Éric Gingras in a press release.
“It’s society as a whole that must mobilize to protect and preserve the French language,” he added.
Québec solidaire (QS) education spokesperson Ruba Ghazal also welcomed the minister’s willingness to review French programs.
“Despite these good intentions, the minister must not forget that if we want to improve the teaching of French in our classrooms, we must act against the shortage of staff in the network,” he said.