Friday, June 09, 2006

Tidbits from Quebec - ESL, Boisclair, Private Schools and Cell Phone Bans

Herewith, a brief sampling of some of the stories that are making news in Quebec, as the main stories in the mainstream English-language news in the ROC (the foiled terrorist plan, al-Zarqawi's death) have been decidedly uninspiring for me in terms of posts. Being away from town for two weeks, basking in the wonders of the Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto triangle, probably hasn't helped with my enthusiasm for posting. Anyways, on with the post:

1) I can't believe that I missed this one until the end of my press scan, but it's important enough to me to be number one. Jean Charest has announced that as of this September, Quebec's francophone students will be taking English-as-a-second-language classes in Grades 1 and 2. Ever since the passage of Bill 101 under the PQ, second-language instruction in English has started in Grade 3 in Quebec. School boards that used to offer ESL as early as Grade 1, such as the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, were forced to revise their curriculum in accordance with this political directive. This is excellent news for parents who want their children to improve their second language skills - it's an axiom that the earlier you expose children to second-language learning, the more proficient they will become. Good on Charest for following through with this election promise.

2) PQ leader Andre Boisclair is finally going to make a run for elected office. And about time, I say. He passed over the last opportunity to run in Montreal's east end, but has apparently decided that the leader of the opposition should hold a seat in the legislature. Pointe-aux-Trembles should be an easy win for him. I haven't been following La Presse as closely as I should be, but I have noticed that Boisclair has been overshadowed by the Charest-Harper-Duceppe dance in the English-language press. He hasn't been figuring in any federal plans that I can see, and that has to be making him feel marginal. A year after Landry's resignation, La Presse, admittedly not the PQ's biggest fan, has not been overly impressed with how Boisclair is shaping up as a party leader.

3) The PQ will be debating a resolution this weekend about reducing government funding to private schools on a sliding scale proportionate with the degree of exclusivity of their selection criteria. This issue has apparently been part of the platform of the PQ since 1970, but to no real effect. So many issues are tied up in the Quebec private school system (including how they are used to skirt language laws) that I can't help thinking this is a Pandora's box not worth opening. But if they are going to deal with it, this "we'll fund some of you, but not all, depending on our criteria" is a recipe for disaster with the different communities these schools serve. Cutting off all funding to private schools is one thing, cutting off some funding to Chinese-language schools and Jewish schools, but not Montessori schools (to pick some completely arbitrary ones) would be toxic.

4) The Charest government is looking favourably at a ban on the use of cell phones while driving. After a weekend in Montreal, I am heartily in favour of this one. I'm frankly surprised that the McGuinty government in Ontario (which seems to have a strong bent to excessive nanny-statism) hasn't done this yet. A quick drive along the QEW in the west end highlights the need for this particular piece of legislation.

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