Frequently asked questions
(ACÉPO – AFOCSC)
This FAQ has been created to encourage parents to enrol their children in a French-language school and to encourage them to get involved, not just in the education of their children, but in the education of all children, through the school council, extracurricular activities, and the school board.
Do you mean to say that the school doesn’t make all of the decisions?
No, not really. At one time, they did and, in some countries, they still do. But, in Canada, that’s changed. Parents now have the privilege of playing an active role in their child’s education—and their child is at the centre of this process. However, every child needs the school, parents, and organizations in the community to work together as partners in order to be successful. In the Franco-Ontarian school system, parents play a vital role in the life of the school. Their opinions are important; they inform decisions on discipline, the operation of the school, and school work (based on the child’s interests, strengths, and challenges).
Why does the school need me?
First, to monitor your child’s progress and to help him or her to improve. Second, to provide the school with as much information as possible about your child’s interests, strengths, and challenges. This information will help teachers, the school principal and other education specialists to provide your child with the support and supervision he or she needs. Third, because when you share your culture you’re your knowledge, it is enriching for the other students, the other parents, and even the teachers. Some parents supervise children in the lunchroom or during recess (often they are paid to do this). Others help the teachers directly (by reading to students, accompanying them on school outings, and coming to the school to talk about their country of origin).
What is this parent committee or school council?
What we call a school council is called a parent association or parent committee in some countries. Here, it’s really important to get involved. The school council is where key decisions are made about the life of the school.
The school council is an advisory body that is made up primarily of parents (like you). Its job is to help improve the environment at the school. The parents who attend elect individuals who will represent them during the school year. The parents make recommendations to the school principal and the school board. The school council also organizes activities for the children. Here is how two school boards talk about parent participation:
a. What do I have to do? What will my role be?
First, you will advise the school principal on anything concerning the welfare of the children in the school. You will participate in (monthly) meetings of this school council (parent committee). You may participate as a member or, if you wish, you may stand for election as a member of the leadership team for the school year. Parents who are members of the school council also have opportunities to organize great projects for the school (such as a multicultural fair, watering the community garden, fundraising, and a mini-book fair.)
b. Am I qualified to be a member of the school council?
Of course you are! Any parent (father, mother, guardian) of a child registered at the school can belong to the school council. When it comes to your child, you are the expert! You have the qualifications by virtue of being a parent. What is more, your life experience will be a source of enrichment for the other parents and for the entire school.
c. Will I have the right to speak and to give my opinion?
Any parent who wishes to give their opinion may do so and these opinions are generally well received. For example, Mr. Omar suggested that the school attended by his children organize a multicultural fair each year. In the school attended by her children, Ms. Makoto suggested the creation of an after-school homework club to help students having difficulty with mathematics, which was very well received. All suggestions that promote the school and the welfare of the students are welcome.
d. What if what I say is out of line?
No one is perfect. The purpose of parent meetings is to gather ideas and points of view on a multitude of topics. Generally speaking, before meetings, parents receive documentation explaining the topics that will be discussed. Don’t hesitate to share things that you like and things that concern you. Every parent can have a say. The more parents participate in this type of structure, the more quickly they develop expertise.
e. Will I be well received by the other parents?
It is important to remember that the students—and parents—in our schools come from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. As a result, you may be received differently than in your country of origin. However, that doesn’t mean you are not welcome. Some parents will take the initiative of approaching you. Others will wait to get to know you better. However, all will be glad that you are there because you all share a common goal: ensuring that the children who attend the school are happy and productive.
We don’t speak French or English. Why should we choose a French-language school?
To enable your children to become bilingual and have a better future. Students attending a French-language school have an opportunity to master French and, at the same time, develop a comparable level of proficiency in English.
Acquisition of the French language is a rare asset in North America, where people learn English almost by osmosis. Canada has two official languages; as a result, bilingual individuals have more training and career opportunities than unilingual individuals. French-language schools offer a real edge: they train students in French, while ensuring that they also learn English. Your child will have better access to good training and comparatively better career opportunities than a unilingual child. Offering your child the privilege of mastering the French language is a wise and pragmatic choice.
The English-language education system does not have admission committees. Why is there an admission committee to register our children in a French-language school, but not to register them in an English-language school?
The admission committee is part of the regular administrative process. It is not a form of discrimination; it is an effective means of ensuring that the French-language school — a rare asset in North America — is primarily made available to families who meet the statutory requirements (which probably include you). The admission committee arrives at a clear understanding of your child’s background and schooling to date, as well as his or her needs and any services that will be necessary to address these needs.
In our country of origin, private schools are better than public schools. Is this true in Canada, too?
Not necessarily. In Canada, public schools are free and are funded by the government. They are administered by elected citizens (such as you) and ranked regularly (on a regional, provincial, national, and international level). Our teachers are highly qualified, we use leading-edge technology, and our curriculum reflects advancements in the modern world. Our schools rank very well, with high graduation rates and scores that exceed the provincial standards in reading, writing, science, and mathematics.
Why does Ontario have two different French-language education systems? How are they similar? How are they different?
According to the Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques, both systems have essentially the same curriculum, with one exception: in the French-language Catholic schools, the Christian values of the Roman Catholic Church are taught and are a part of the curriculum. The students’ spiritual development is a partnership between the home, the school, and the Church.
According to the Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l'Ontario, religious practices are not a part of the curriculum, although courses on various world religions are. Just like in the Catholic schools, moral and civic values that are integrated into various programs of study in Ontario are taught.
We speak French fluently at home. Why not just enrol our children in an English-language school, so that they learn English as a second language?
In a French-language school, your child will master French and English; it has not been shown that the reverse is true. Your children will learn English through daily exposure. Students in a French-language school take English courses starting in Grade 4. By Grade 12, they are as proficient in English as students who have attended an English-language school.
For the past several years, the students attending French-language schools have scored higher than the students attending English-language schools on the provincial tests in reading, writing, and mathematics.
In addition to the great education and employment opportunities available to bilingual students, your child will be exposed to cultural content that showcases Ontario’s diverse Francophone community. While the French language is a vehicle for learning and communication, it is also a way to transmit your pride, values, and cultural identity.
I get the impression that there are a lot of procedures here. Do you have a chart that shows the roles and relationships between parents, schools, and school boards? (People and groups)
You’re right: it is very structured. That’s because structure makes everyone’s job easier (including yours).
|Designation Description||Role / Tasks||Relationships|
|Parent volunteers who are elected by the public during school elections||
How do the schools ensure that new students are safe, treated fairly, and included?
Our school system is safe and secure. Ontario has introduced mechanisms to ensure that students are treated fairly in terms of:
- Behaviour: Ontario has introduced a provincial code to promote student respect and well-being. Schools adapt and apply this code either to reinforce positive behaviour or as a gradual disciplinary system.
- Safety: our schools are constantly being renovated and if there is the slightest risk of aggression (inside or outside the school), safety measures are quickly deployed.
- Equity: the Ministry of Education has introduced the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy to fight bullying, racism, homophobia, etc. (www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/safeschools.html).
- Inclusion: The Programme d’appui des nouveaux arrivants is a program for the admission, welcoming, and accompaniment of students who are newcomers to Canada. This program supports their integration into Canadian society (www.edu.gov.on.ca/fre/teacher/PANAchart.pdf).
What does the elected school board do?
The school board is made up of elected officials who are responsible for student success and school governance. These parents are all elected. They keep a watchful eye over the operation of the schools on behalf of the public. The school board is divided into committees; meetings are open to the public. The school board has a mandate to make the best possible use of public funds, while enabling the schools to be viable and effective so that students can flourish and reach their full potential.
What do individual school board members (trustees) do?
Each trustee is responsible for ensuring that the school board operates appropriately over its entire territory. Each trustee represents the interests of the schools and the communities at the board table. They may sit on, and provide counsel to, a committee or committees (special education, audit committee, appeal committee hearing cases of student suspension or expulsion). Trustees are also a link between you and the school board.
How do I enrol my child in a French-language school?
You can enrol your child in a French-language school at any time. During the summer, we recommend that you contact the school board directly, because the schools are closed. Usually, the French-language school nearest you will give you an appointment for assessing your child’s language skills.
In addition to completing a registration form, you will be asked to provide the following documentation: your child’s birth certificate, school records, immunization record, proof of your legal status in Canada (with proof of residency) and, if necessary, a court order for custody. A certificate of baptism may also be required for registration in a Catholic school. An admission committee will meet fairly quickly after that. It will make a decision (approval or refusal of registration) that is in the best interests of all concerned.
Students who are of age (19 years) may present their own application for registration.