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French Education in Manitoba - what is the government's view?

On Wednesday May 9, in Estimates, I asked the Minister of Education and Learning what he is doing about the shortage of teachers for French immersion programs in Manitoba.  The Minister's reply (below) covers a range of issues related to french language education in Manitoba. 
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Yes, my first question deals with what I'm told is a shortage of teachers for French immersion. This is a growing area, and there are, if you include French, French milieu, core French, and French immersion, there's a very large number of students who are requiring and wanting French or French immersion programs.
      What is the minister doing with regard to this shortage of teachers for French immersion?
Mr. Wishart: I appreciate the question. Certainly, there has been an ongoing problem with shortages in French teachers and French immersion teachers. It's also–the problem also relates to vocational teachers is another one that we have an ongoing shortage situation across the province in and also English an additional language is–those are the areas where we're challenged in terms of teachers. We are–the–a number of the school divisions are working together to try and recruit, in other provinces, in terms of finding French and French immersion teachers, with some success.
      You know, our ultimate goal is to train them here in Manitoba–train teachers to meet those needs, and one of the things that I did actually very early on as a minister was bring in the deans from the various faculties of education in Manitoba and say, what can you do to help me in regards to that. And I wasn't–didn't get a really great response, in all honesty, and the member was probably here when we had that brief discussion of–around the earlier question on academic independence.
      The education faculties don't send a very clear signal to their students as to what the teaching needs  are, and, in fact, for most of them, until the students are actually out in their practicum, they don't get very good direction as to where the best opportunities and the best–from their point of view–and the highest needs are. Now, to their credit, I would say that Universit√© de Saint‑Boniface actually went away and figured out what I was saying and what our needs were, and they've increased their capacity. And those additional teachers will be coming on the market, or will be available for hiring next year, I believe, is when they will be coming out, and that will increase the supply of French and French immersion teachers that are trained here in Manitoba. We're, certainly, encouraging the other faculties to participate in that, and we'll be looking at ways that we can encourage them to do even more.
      It's a short‑term solution to go to other provinces and hire. There are some cultural differences. Often the case when you bring–especially with French and French immersion teachers in from other provinces, often that is a bit of a challenge, as well, and retention is also a factor, because when you encourage people to displace, they don't always adjust to the new environment in the best way possible, and so retention is a challenge for those teachers.
      Now, we continue to look at that. In fact, I recently had a discussion with one of the diplomatic groups that was in on trade from France, as to see what they might have in terms of teachers that would come here and help us with our issue of shortage of French and French immersion teachers. And there was some interest there, and we're certainly following up on that, as well, but these are ongoing problems. They've been in place for a long time.
      We did touch on enrollment numbers in French and French immersion, and I believe, if I remember the–correctly, the growth in French was about 0.5 per cent per year, and the French immersion was about 4.6, which is quite a substantial growth year over year, and it has been that way for some time. So we know that not only do we have a shortage now, but we're likely to have an even greater shortage of teachers moving forward.
      So we're certainly working constructively with the school divisions. As the member probably appreciates, the teachers actually work for the school division; they don't work for the Province of Manitoba. So we just have to work in a constructive manner with the school divisions to try and make this happen.

Mr. Gerrard: Yes, I thank the minister. I'm certainly in support of efforts to increase the training of students in the areas where we have shortages. I think the minister has a potential for a significant leadership role should he choose to take that and to make sure that students are better aware of where there are opportunities

Interestingly, the Winnipeg Free Press picked up on the Minister's response to my question, although they did not credit me for asking the question.  See this link  However,  it is more important that Manitoban's have the answers than that I get credit for asking the question. 


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