Francisation Québec, a CAQ government initiative aimed at centralizing French learning opportunities for immigrants, was launched on the 1stum last June with the aim of simplifying access to learning French, harmonizing services between the different partners (organizations, schools, etc.) and improving customer service for newcomers. The goals seem laudable, but implementation is chaotic at the start of the school year.
Minister Fréchette promised to process the file within 50 days and apply for francization. However, signs of delays and disorganization are already evident. Many people who have registered since June or July are still waiting to be contacted to be assessed and enrolled in a course appropriate to their language level.
In addition, the ministry now only offers online assessments, while adult education centers systematically conduct them on site to ensure not only oral but also written proficiency before classes begin.
The mirage of simplification
Dozens of people have come to our center in the last few days and told us that they would like to start classes at the beginning of the school year, but have still not been contacted. We could meet them, fill out their paperwork in person and assess them within an hour so they can be with us at the start of the school year, but the new MIFI rules prevent us from doing that and call into question the promise of seamless access and fast.
Why should we ignore our expertise when we already have to meet deadlines? We are used to personally assessing learners’ language needs and abilities.
Furthermore, it is important to note that assessments are now in most cases conducted remotely and only verbally, and this limitation neglects learners who may have literacy difficulties or require a more holistic assessment. This approach will undoubtedly result in massive demotions and reclassifications at the start of the school year when it would have been more effective to do this in person only once.
While the idea of leveraging technology is promising, many newbies lack the digital skills they need to effectively navigate the platform, which, let’s face it, is complex and userless.
The lack of human support makes registration difficult for some who have had no opportunity to develop digital skills in their home country. Human interaction and friendliness are essential aspects of language learning when welcoming newcomers, which are neglected in this technology-focused approach. Why forego a human approach that works? Isn’t the pandemic behind us?
Francisation Québec’s deployment raises questions about how the government manages immigrant integration projects. Last year, consultations with local stakeholders were conducted via webinars, but the legitimate questions raised appeared to be ignored, leaving obvious gaps in the implementation of this platform. This attitude shows a lack of understanding of the realities experienced by new learners and francization teachers.
Although the Francization Québec initiative was presented as a step forward in making it easier for immigrants to learn French, it quickly revealed its shortcomings on the ground.
To actually achieve its linguistic integration goals, the government needs to rethink its strategy and work closely with experts in the field. This is the only way newcomers can benefit from an authentic and effective French learning experience, rather than encountering the obstacles of a poorly designed digital system that does not make it easier for newcomers to meet with their host community.
Photo courtesy of Marie-Eve Larente
Tania Longpre, Teacher of Frenchization, doctoral student and lecturer at several universities.