No, the kids are not alright.

Recently I came across a few articles describing an unfortunate situation in one of our sister school boards. Both CTV Montreal and CJAD have reported that an alternative-program Grade 11 group has been without a qualified French teacher since last November. A school board spokesperson explained that it was “the best that they could do” as they had already been through four other teachers (two of whom left on maternity leave, and the other two “just didn’t work out”). So, in the place of a qualified language instructor, the students have been learning French by using Rosetta Stone.

Wait…what?

In Quebec, graduating students are required to receive 100 hours of language instruction in French in order to prepare them for ministerial (state) final exam(s). The credits earned by passing said exam(s) allow for a student to receive a Diploma of Secondary Studies in Quebec. The Rosetta Stone software, while great at providing limited instruction for the basics of many different languages, falls short when being used to prepare a student for a final exam where certain forms of writing and speech are used.  Teachers allow for the full explanation of lessons and are able to account for subtle nuances that computer applications cannot. Not only that, an actual teacher can better manage students due to their cultivated relationships with each individual child, allowing for a real example of differentiated learning. Teachers can never be replaced by a piece of computer software.

All parties involved really missed the boat in terms of providing for what’s best for the students. The fact that it took until now for this story to come to light is a absolute farce. Granted, children should become increasingly independent vis-a-vis their studies. However, it shouldn’t take over 3 months for something like this to be addressed. Consequently, the students in the program, unless they are specifically made aware of the situation, will simply take the lightened course load as a “gimme” for that class. I’m sure that it was not until the student who blew the whistle on this story was applying for a college or vocational program realized that their chances for being accepted into the program of their choice was actually in jeopardy because of the inadequate number of hours of French  language instruction.

Moreover, were all other viable options pursued before it was decided that using Rosetta Stone would be a valid substitute for an actual classroom teacher? School boards in the anglophone sector of our province are turning away teaching candidates annually because we simply do not have the numbers to support hirings, so there really is no shortage of qualified individuals. I mean, we can’t find a qualified French teacher in Quebec? Nonsense. Even if there were no qualified individuals in the english sector, couldn’t there have been a search for teachers in the francophone sector?

The school will be meeting with the parents of affected students to further explain the situation and outline their proposed solution to ensure that the students will indeed get the required number of hours of instruction in French to satisfy ministerial requirements. No matter what solution the school presents, it does not guarantee that the affected students will be able to synthesize the curriculum missed in time for their final exam(s). It’s my opinion that, had officials been more transparent since day one, they would ultimately not find themselves in the conundrum they are now.

Some food for thought:

  • What happens if some students fail to graduate? What recourse is there?
  • How can we prevent something like this from happening again?

Unfortunately, the real victims in this story are the students. Why gamble with their future?

‘Til the next post.

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