Why don't we try to get all of our kids to learn to speak and read proper English first?
The Windsor Public School Board has decided to offer Arabic 'immersion' classes. From the tone of the article, this doesn't sound like the taxpayer funded 'Heritage Languages' program here in Toronto, where the TDSB pays for Cantonese, Farsi or other foreign language classes, usually on Saturdays. This sounds like the Board intends to offer regular school day education, in Arabic.
Nice precedent, don't you think?
Surely it makes more sense to fund more programs and include more participants in classes that would facilitate the learning of one of our two OFFICIAL languages.
Apparently the experts don't think so. They say that kids 'literate in their first language are more adept at acquiring English or French.' and that 'if children of immigrants do not feel alienated from their family's language and culture, they adapt most readily to Canadian culture and values.'
Really? I would have thought being immersed in English would help you to learn English, and that participating fully in Canadian culture would help establish and cultivate Canadian values. Silly me. Better to ghettoize and then when they're ready, let them mix.
Oh, I know. These kids will be inside public schools, ostensibly learning the same curriculum and participating fully in school life, but don't imagine for a moment that there won't be two solitudes within those schools. If you have kids in Special Ed., you'll know what I mean.
Rather than funding another expensive social experiment with our school systems, why don't we just admit that we haven't managed our English as a Second Language programs effectively. ESL in the public school system in Toronto is a joke, and I doubt it's much better in Windsor. Here in TO, kids whose first language is not English, but who were born in Canada, aren't allowed to participate. They speak their parents' mother-tongue at home and are expected to just 'pick up' English in the school yard I guess. The program ends around Grade 3 with limited support in the higher grades. And Windsor wants to spend money teaching kids in a foreign language? This is another stupid idea that will find its way to Toronto no doubt.
Many Ontarians are keen throw out our heritage and to stop public funding of Catholic schools because it's 'unfair' and 'too expensive' and here is the Windsor School Board trying to justify Arabic immersion. In some areas of Scarborough more than 60% of kids don't speak English as a first language -- what should we do for them? There are several different language groups here and English is the minority. Maybe we should create several learning solitudes. Or maybe we should only fund the language groups where numbers allow, regardless of the language. In some places, that would mean both English and French are out.
The answer to integrating people into Canadian life isn't to educate immigrant kids in their native language. Doing so can't possibly advance their participation in community life -- unless we plan for them to stay within an exclusively Arabic-speaking community.