The Honourable Rob Fleming, M.L.A. Minister of Education
RE: Roadmap to Address BC’s French Teacher Shortage
On behalf of Canadian Parents for French BC & YK, I would like to express our appreciation for your engagement in the French teacher shortage. As we have seen in recent media coverage, the shortage is acute, persistent and widespread. After years of advocacy, we are pleased to finally begin to see concrete initiatives emerge. The announcement of 37 new French teacher training positions at our post-secondary institutions, and your trip to France, Belgium and Holland were warmly welcomed by our parent community.
However, Minister Fleming, due to years of inaction, school districts around the province are still struggling to fill French teaching positions. On August 23, 2018, we learned School District 27 (Cariboo-Chilcotin) was lacking five French teachers. According to Radio-Canada the Conseil scolaire francophone (SD#93) still needs 40 to 50 French teachers. These are just a few examples of the critical circumstances facing school districts today.
Flying under the radar are many more school districts with few, if any, French teachers on their teacher-on-call lists. All in all, we believe British Columbia is short anywhere from 100 to 150 French teachers. Given the lack of good data or labour market assessments, this is our best guess based on public reporting. It is unfortunate that no government or regulatory agency seems to have a good handle on the actual French teacher supply, demand, or the shortage.
Looking forward, we know the federal government has earmarked $62.6 million for French first- and second-language teacher recruitment and retention. According to a August 28, 2018 Vancouver Sun article, British Columbia can expect roughly $9.4 million over the course of the next Federal Action Plan on Official Languages. Properly allocated, we believe these new funds will substantially assist in addressing the need for French teachers in our province.
To assist in your Ministry’s planning process, we have compiled a number of specific recommendations which we believe will help meet our short-term and long-term needs. Attached as an appendix is also a recent SFU Master’s thesis focused entirely on this subject, as well as a Canadian Parents for French - National French teacher shortage report.
We believe there are three key pillars to addressing this teacher shortage: train our own, recruit from out-of-province and out-of-country, and lower French teacher attrition.
The bulk of our efforts should be focused on increasing the number of French teachers trained and certified from our post-secondary institutions. Anecdotally, we have heard teachers trained and certified here in BC are more likely to stay in the province and in the profession. Community and family support plus familiarity with the BC curriculum make the success rate higher for the beginning teacher from BC than from elsewhere.
RECOMMENDATION #1 Run a “French Teachers Wanted” public education campaign. Focus on French speaking high school and postsecondary students in BC.
RECOMMENDATION #2 Further increase the number of French teacher training spaces at post-secondary institutions.
RECOMMENDATION #3 Provide scholarships and bursaries to post-secondary students as an incentive to enrol in French teacher training programs.
RECOMMENDATION #4 Provide tuition fee forgiveness to teacher candidates who successfully complete their French teacher training and sign a contract with a BC school district.
While the bulk of our efforts should be focused on training French teachers here in British Columbia, there are important benefits in recruiting from out-of-province and out-of-country. There are countless linguistic and cultural benefits in increasing the number of native French speakers in our school communities.
RECOMMENDATION #5 Provide funding for a 1 FTE position at Make-A-Future responsible for out-of-province and out-of-country French teacher recruitment. Include funding for travel and teacher recruitment promotion.
- Responsibilities could include: attending teacher job fairs, building partnerships with foreign universities, embassies and consulates, promoting opportunities at francophone post-secondary institutions, managing promotional campaigns in francophone regions of Canada and the world.
RECOMMENDATION #7 Collaborate with the universities with Francophone and French BEd programs to bring student teachers to BC to complete their teacher training. Provide out-of-province French teacher candidates a $2,500 bursary for completing their practicum in a BC school district, as is currently the practice in Alberta.
RECOMMENDATION #8 Increase the salary of all teachers in British Columbia. Given that we are now experiencing a serious shortage of French teachers all across Canada, and that we are competing against more provinces for fewer teachers, we need to consider offering more competitive compensation to attract French speaking teachers from out-of-province.
RECOMMENDATION #9 Enable the use of the internationally recognized DELF, Diplôme d’études de langue française, or the equivalent based on the CEFR, the Common European Framework of Reference. The DELF assessment should be adopted by post-secondary institutions to determine French language proficiency of potential incoming teacher candidates but as well as a tool for school district human resources teams to use in the hiring of teachers. In so doing, school districts will be able to easily assess the French proficiency level of any incoming teacher, assisting districts lacking bilingual Human Resources staff in the hiring process.
We have learned anecdotally that the attrition amongst French immersion teachers is higher than the attrition experienced by teachers in the English program. If we are to address the French teacher shortage in British Columbia, we need to improve the retention of French teachers in our classrooms.
RECOMMENDATION #10 Provide more in-service professional development opportunities specifically designed for French Second Language teachers. With improved confidence and improved French language skills, some of these teachers may elect to teach more classes in French or move from a Core French teaching position into teaching in French Immersion.
RECOMMENDATION #11 Address often challenging working conditions. These might include providing dedicated teaching space to all French second language teachers as well improved access to resources in French, both online and in print. Schools embarking on new initiatives such as Mind-Up and Habits of Mind should as a minimum have access to the reproducible materials and visual supports to support the implementation of such programs in French. Training may be done in English but any materials used with students need to be provided in French.
RECOMMENDATION #12 Expand teacher exchange bursaries to francophone regions of Canada and the world.
RECOMMENDATIONS #13 Develop mentoring support for both beginning and new to the district teachers as a provincial initiative as presently, mentoring support does not occur uniformly across the province, and in some districts, is non-existent. Designating a district Language Coordinator in each district will go a long way to support this. Given this responsibility, the Language Coordinator then could take the lead to support new teachers, using mentoring support guidelines developed by the Ministry, universities and the BCTF. The British Columbia Language Coordination Association (BCLCA) may be suited to taking the lead on this.
BC Ministry of Education
Finally, we believe there are institutional changes required by the Provincial Government to best prepare and oversee a comprehensive French Teacher Recruitment & Retention Strategy.
RECOMMENDATION #14 Collect better data on the supply and demand for French teachers in British Columbia. Part of the problem over the years is that no one seemed to have a good grasp on the nature or the scope of the French teacher shortage in our province. We need much better data, analysis, forecasts which need to be more frequently shared with the relevant educational stakeholders.
RECOMMENDATION #15 Allocate a 1 FTE at the Ministry of Education French Programs Department to oversee French Teacher Development. This person could oversee a comprehensive French Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. They could also help manage support-focused programs such as teacher professional development, integration, exchanges, and bursaries.
RECOMMENDATION #16 Annually convene a French Teacher Supply & Demand Consortium. This consortium should be responsible for reviewing the supply and demand data and monitoring progress with respect to training, recruitment, and retention as well as making recommendations for curriculum resources and mentoring support.
Minister Fleming, we believe these are just a few initiatives the Ministry can take to maximize the impact of the new Federal funding that will soon be made available under the Action Plan on Official Languages.
All told, we believe this is an incredible opportunity for our education system and our province.
By training more French teachers here in British Columbia, we will offer stable and meaningful local employment opportunities to hundreds of graduates from our own French programs. Additionally, by recruiting francophone teachers from other provinces and countries, we will enrich the cultural and linguistic makeup of communities and enhance the cultural experience of tens of thousands of students in our education system. Finally, by addressing the high rates of French teacher attrition, we will provide better support for teachers. In so doing, we will maintain the health and excellence in our programs and advance the languages and cultures we cherish.
We look forward to being part of many more action-oriented discussions in the weeks and months ahead.
Executive Director, Canadian Parents for French BC & YK
The Honourable Melanie Joly, P.C., M.P. Minister of Canadian Heritage
Glen Hansman, President BC Teachers Federation
Scott MacDonald, Deputy Minister BC Ministry of Education
Linda Beddouche, Manager French Programs Department BC Ministry of Education
Gino Leblanc, Director Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs Simon Fraser University
Bertrand Dupain, General Director Conseil scolaire francophone de la colombie-britannique
Andrew Jang, Business Development Consultant Make A Future