Second-Language Education Policy in Quebec: A Critical Analysis of the Policy of English as a Compulsory Subject at the Early Primary Level in Quebec

By Fallon, Gerald; Rublik, Natalie | TESL Canada Journal, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Second-Language Education Policy in Quebec: A Critical Analysis of the Policy of English as a Compulsory Subject at the Early Primary Level in Quebec


Fallon, Gerald, Rublik, Natalie, TESL Canada Journal


Introduction

Based on an analysis of policy documents, archives, and narratives from interviews, this article presents a critical policy study that seeks to explicate contextually the key features of the process that led to the adoption of a set of directions introducing English as a second language (ESL) as a compulsory subject in grades 1 and 2 (primary Cycle 1) in francophone primary schools across the Province of Quebec in 2006 (Ministere de l'education, du loisir et du sport, 2006). This new policy direction needed to be analyzed in the context of the emerging conflict between the use of French-language policy in Quebec as an instrument of nation-building and the rise of a globalizing world requiring the mastery of English as an international language, recognizing that nation-building does not does not necessarily mean independent state-building (Keating, 1997). This policy study focuses on exploring the extent to which the tensions between the Quebec process of nation-building on one hand and globalization on the other hand framed and influenced the narratives and "the processes by which agenda items and alternatives [came] into prominence" (Kingdon, 1995, p.15) during the phases of policy development.

This study is part of a wider international policy research trend investigating language-policy changes made by non-English-speaking societies in response to the rapid socioeconomic changes brought about by globalization, which are seen as "as a driving force to strengthen the position of English as a global language" (Chang, 2006, p. 515). The unprecedented spread of English as the lingua franca of international communication (Crystal, 2003), coupled with globalization, has had a significant effect on second-language policies in non-English-speaking societies including the Province of Quebec in Canada. The major challenge posed by globalization for such societies as that of Quebec is crucial because the English language, which functions as one of the most important mediational tools for globalization, is not their native language. Do ancay-Aktuna (1998) gave an historical account of the conditions that trigger the spread of English in these terms:

   As a result of socio-political and economic events, English began
   to spread in the non-colonized areas of the world after World War
   II via careful language planning. It gradually replaced French as
   the language of international diplomacy to become the lingua franca
   for trade, banking, tourism, popular media, science and technology.
   In order to gain access to these information networks, English was
   integrated into the education systems of many countries, even in
   officially monolingual areas, e.g. in the Middle East, Far East,
   and many European Nations. (p. 25)

Our study addresses the following question: How has Quebec responded to the global influence of English in its English-as-a-second-language policy, particularly in terms of the importance of English in early primary education in its public francophone schools? The element that makes this policy setting unique is the fact that Quebec is a society whose majority language constitutes a minority language in the Canadian and North American context. In response to its minority status, on August 26, 1977, Quebec formulated a language policy, Bill 101 (Charter of the French Language, RSQ, c C-11), which was designed to protect the French language from the influence of a larger and more predominant language in the neighboring English Canadian and United States societies. This policy was deemed necessary by the government of the time because Quebec was experiencing a continual shift in population due to ongoing immigration. Bill 101 focuses on the preservation of the French language while establishing procedures to ensure that immigrants acquire the language of the majority. At the same time, Quebec policymakers faced the challenge of designing a second-language policy in the public francophone education system that would ensure sufficient and necessary English-as-a-second-language skills of francophones in Quebec. …

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