Should French Be Mandatory In Canadian Schools?

Published February 26, 2014
Photo license: Flickr/cc.

Photo license: Flickr/cc.

With many French speakers in Canada, schools debate whether French shod be a mandatory part of public education. While it does make sense for Canadians o learn French, including a subject as part of a schooling requirement does have some repercussions.

French Speakers in Canada

French speakers make up a large minority of the Canadian population. With such a large contingent of French speakers, there is an emphasis on French comprehension in the country.

Those who speak French well have expanded career and business opportunities as well as a heightened connection with the roots of the country. However, is it necessary for every school student to learn French?

Pros and Cons of Mandating French in Canadian Schools

If French is mandatory in schools, it helps to integrate the entire country. When everyone maintains a high level of proficiency both in French and English, it makes communication between different groups of people easier. The increased unity trickles down to all levels of society.

At the same time, mandating a subject means that public resources need to be devoted to ensuring standards of education in that subject. Some debate whether learning French is worth the public funds that it would require to enforce.

Also, mandating a specific language instead of mandating proficiency in any second language leaves people with less choice in their education and prevents a broader range of knowledge in the country. By making French the number one priority, it is essentially discouraging people from pursuing other international languages and experiences.

Correlates to the US

In multicultural areas of the US, Cubans in Florida or Mexicans In California, the same debate is taking place. Spanish speakers are beginning to dominate some areas of these states, and there is an increasing need to integrate many different groups within these communities.

The traditional approach has been to fund and promote programs that teach Spanish language and cultural awareness. To some extent these programs have been helpful in promoting understanding, but a greater level of integration needs to take place for these communities to be fully functional. There are many differences between Canada and France, but each country can still learn from the other’s successes and failures.

In situations like these, politicians wonder whether it’s best to leave these decisions up to personal choice. Trying to force cultural integration, rather than encouraging a desire to reach out, may have unintended effects and even backfire.

However, it does need to be done both in the US and Canada to promote a single national identity and a functional platform for communication. It is undecided whether mandatory language lessons are the best way to bring about these shifts.

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