Academic journal article TESL Canada Journal

Second-Language Education Policy in Quebec: ESL Teachers' Perceptions of the Effects of the Policy of English as a Compulsory Subject at the Early Primary Level

Academic journal article TESL Canada Journal

Second-Language Education Policy in Quebec: ESL Teachers' Perceptions of the Effects of the Policy of English as a Compulsory Subject at the Early Primary Level

Article excerpt

In many public schools in non-English-speaking countries in the world such as China, South Korea, and Japan, the introduction of English as a foreign language (EFL) as a compulsory subject beginning in grade 1 has been a common feature of educational programs. The province of Quebec did likewise in 2006 by introducing English as a second language (ESL) as a compulsory subject in grades 1 and 2 (primary Cycle One) in Francophone primary schools across the province (Ministere de l'Education, du Loisir, et du Sport, 2006a). This article follows an earlier piece that dealt specifically with the origin and formulation of the new ESL policy (Fallon & Rublik, 2011). This qualitative study is a follow-up focusing on:

* how the policy was understood and implemented in the field;

* how research participants perceived the effects of the policy on parents' and students' attitudes toward English and on the basic literacy skills and competences of Francophone students in their mother tongue.

It is important to state that this ESL study does not intend to provide generalizable conclusions valid for all ESL contexts and situations dealing with the teaching of ESL in Cycle One or to provide a single unifying narrative that explains the situation of all Francophone schools in Quebec.

The findings from this study are based primarily on an aggregation and interpretation of the views and perceptions of school district staff, resource teachers, and teachers involved in the policy implementation process at the school board and school levels. Conducted over six months, the interview portion of this study provided opportunities for research participants to reflect on and think critically about the implementation process of introducing ESL at an early age and perceived changes that were associated with the teaching of ESL in primary Cycle One in terms of parents' and students' attitudes toward the English language and basic literacy skills and the competences of Francophone students in their mother tongue. For many research participants, this was perhaps their first opportunity to do so.

This article comprises three main sections. The first is the context of the study; the second outlines the conceptual framework for policy analysis and the research methodology employed; and in the third we provide an account and discussion of our findings and the implications of this study for future research in the area of ESL language policy.

Context of the Study

In 2006, the Liberal Government in Quebec introduced policy changes in ESL education (Ministere de l'Education, du Loisir et du Sport, 2006a). This new policy was introduced in response to criticism about the responsiveness and effectiveness of Francophone public schools in preparing a flexible and bilingual work force that was required for the province's enhanced competitiveness in the global market (Laberge, 2005). The growing phenomenon of globalization was characterized by the government as the main challenge to the preexisting situation, demanding a policy response with regard to the teaching of ESL.

In 2003-2004, a new program was developed in preparation for the teaching of ESL in primary Cycle One. Its implementation was slated for 20062007. During the development phase, the new ESL curriculum was field-tested for two years from 2004 to 2006. In 2004-2005, the Elementary Cycle One program was field-tested in six schools in five regions of Quebec (Abitibi Temiscamingue, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Estrie, Laurentides, and Capitale-Nationale). The purpose of the field-testing was to verify the practicability of the program and to validate the relevance of its content. During this first pilot phase, teachers and students were filmed regularly during the school year, and DVDs were produced for future reference and teacher-training. In 2005-2006, seven regions volunteered for a second year of field-testing (Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Estrie, Laurentides, Capitale-Nationale, Montreal, and Bas-St-Laurent). …

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