Canada's bilingualism ideal: a case study of intensive French in British Columbia

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The Federal Government’s ideal of strengthening national unity through official bilingualism has been reawakened by its recently announced goal of doubling the proportion of bilingual graduates by 2013. The underlying objectives of French second language education have not changed since the Official Languages Act of 1969, but the routes to achieve them have undergone a significant evolution. The two major pan-Canadian approaches to teaching and learning French (core French and French immersion) have now been joined by another, intensive French. This case study documents the implementation of an intensive French program in Surrey, British Columbia over nearly three years. I contextualized the implementation within the history of official language policy and second language education in Canada and British Columbia and examined sociopolitical forces working for and against establishment of the new program. I drew on the existing literature on language policy and implementation with a focus on the influence on language education in Canada and in British Columbia. I also considered the relationship between language, identity and education and how globalization and language commodification influence policy and individual choices. Using a responsive evaluation approach, I developed my understanding and helped stakeholders co-construct their understandings of the program and then applied theories of social hierarchy to interpret the interactions of various stakeholder groups. Finally, I considered the role of professional and organizational learning in this implementation. The findings of this study suggest that French as a second language is viewed less as a symbol of national unity and more as an economic commodity. Students and parents invested in the program in order to gain linguistic proficiency, extra challenge and future advantages. These interests were countered by the concerns expressed by non-program teachers and school and district leaders concerning issues of equality and stability in the workplace. Assumptions about the linear implementation of program innovation were disrupted by the experiences of the teachers. They needed time and space to experiment, reflect and share as they problematized and integrated the new teaching approach. The conclusions examine the implications of these results for teaching, learning and future research in French second language education.

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Faculty of Education - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ed.D.)