Monday, September 25, 2023

New French as second language courses coming to the Pontiac

Brett Thoms
Pontiac February 4, 2023
Seeing a surge in demand for French language courses for adults in the aftermath of the passage of Bill 96, both Heritage College’s Campbell’s Bay campus and the Pontiac Continuing Education Centre in Shawville are beginning to offer French as a second language (FSL) courses to locals. The Equity reached out to the educational institutions in the Pontiac to gauge their commitment to offering FSL courses and the encouragement and support they are receiving from the provincial government.
As of now under the CEGEP’s continuing education program for adult students, Heritage is offering one 40-hour beginner conversation course which is in person in Campbell’s Bay. The class began on Fed. 6 and runs between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Heritage is also offering three online FSL courses billed as either intermediate or advanced, as well as a few in-person offerings on the Gatineau campus. As of now, registration for the winter term programs is closed, though the classes cost $335.00 with a subsidy available to students from Emploi Québec Outaouais.
“Bill 96 was kind of a shot in the arm a little bit to get us going with regards to offering FLS courses, not only in our regional areas but in urban areas as well,” said Terry Kharyati, Director General at CEGEP Heritage College in an interview with the Equity.
“Campbell’s Bay will continue to run FSL as long as there’s a desire from the community to have it”, said Kharyati.
While Kharyati said demand for the classes wasn’t overwhelming enough to fill them, they still saw good demand from the community. He went on to say that demand from the community would determine the future offerings available at the Campbell’s Bay campus.
“There’s always a threshold of the amount of the number of people you need to enroll into a class to be able to run it,” said Kharyati. “But you don’t need tons of people, you need a core group five, six, seven, eight or whatever it is to want to come out to classes and we will offer them.”
He also believes starting with just beginner classes is reasonable.
“Pedagogically what I think is the sensible thing to do is you offer beginners and in the following year you offer beginners and intermediate, and then advanced if people are interested,” he said.
When asked, Kharyati didn’t explicitly say that new offerings were a result of a mandate or support from the Government of Quebec to expand access to FSL courses, however, said that the Quebec Ministry of Education was there to support the CEGEP’s transition towards implementing the various costs imposed Bill 96 in terms offering a wider array of French courses, or implementing the French language in the administration of the institution.
“We’re going to continue to expand offerings for the community in not just in FSL, but I think just whatever’s interesting to the community. That’s our pledge. Our new strategic plan is to really increase our ability to reach full-time students, part-time students, continuing ed students, French students, English students, everybody who wants to be here will be taken care of,” concluded Kharyati.
The Pontiac Continuing Education Centre in Shawville is run under the WQSB and is also expanding its FSL options.
While the continuing education centre has always offered FSL courses to those seeking their high school diploma, it also is starting to reoffer uncredited in-person FSL courses for adult learners seeking to improve their French for the first time in years.
“We’re going to be offering a beginner level course on Tuesday evenings, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., starting on March 14 and running through the end of May. And then we’re also going to be offering an intermediate level French conversation class on Thursdays, same time 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. from March 16 to June 1,” said Jennifer Dubeau, Centre Director of Pontiac Continuing Education Centre and the person responsible for customized services to businesses.
Dubeau mentioned that classes like this at the centre haven’t gone ahead since before her arrival in 2015 due to insufficient demand, but recently they saw a spike in requests from both employees and business owners looking for support in improving their French.
“It’s quite popular, both the beginner and intermediate courses are almost full right now. There’s maybe a couple of spots left in each, although I’m not responsible for the registration,” said Dubeau.
Though Dubeau said that the WQSB is allotted funding from the provincial government meant to support workers who want to improve their French, that amount hasn’t increased since the passage of Bill 96.
As for future plans, Dubeau, like Kharytia, said it all depends on demand. “If the demand is there and people want to continue learning then yes, we’re going to continue to offer the courses and then maybe offer more beginner courses again for new people that want to join,” she said.
Both Kharytia and Dubeau said there is currently no coordination between the offerings made by the WQSB and Heritage over FSL courses offered to adult learners in the Pontiac.
For further information, you can visit the the Pontiac Continuing Education Centre website and/or the continuing education tab on Heritage’s website.


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