After PELF

By Ronald Boudreau
October 27, 2014

Here we are. The Pédagogie à l’école de langue française (PELF) (pedagogy in French-language schools) project on which the Canadian Teachers’ Federation has been working for four years was launched on September 26, 2014, at the annual education multi-network gathering organized by the Association canadienne d’éducation de langue française (ACELF).

PELF is a synthesis of the most recent studies on education in Francophone minority settings in Canada. In addition to tapping into the expertise within the research community, what is so special about this project is that it also gave teachers the means to present results in a framework that reflects the realities of French-language schools. As such, PELF is a combination of theory and practice, and a project designed by and for teachers.

PELF established its own vocabulary. There were a number of raised eyebrows when the words “actuelisation” (a play on the French word “actuel”, meaning “current” in English), “conscientisaction” (a play on the French words for conscientization and action), “dynamisation” and “sensification1 were first heard. The reason behind this vocabulary is simple: we needed words to describe what we wanted to express. So we simply invented or reused some. While we didn’t have any other reason to do so at first, we realized much later that by having our own vocabulary, we contributed – without knowing it – to the development of a sense of belonging. In fact, one has to be part of this “select club” of teachers working in Francophone minority settings in Canada to understand the true meaning of these words! We also have to recognize that our interpersonal relationships must be positive so we dare to make a blueprint for society. And we have to believe in the sharing of influence if we want to grow stronger and succeed. That is what PELF is all about!

As in any new initiative, it is difficult to predict how PELF will turn out. However, thanks to the support of provincial and territorial departments of Education where French is the language of the minority and of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, several strategies were put in place to ensure a smooth launch and a successful implementation of the project.

For example, two days before the official launch, CTF had the opportunity to meet with a person specifically designated by each school board to “carry” the PELF file. The intent was very simple: making sure that in every part of the country, at least one person would know a little more about PELF than the others.

While expectations were low, results were more than satisfactory. The message most frequently heard was: PELF supports everything we already know and allows us to take a step forward. This was, by far, the most reassuring message we could hope for.

Those who participated in this meeting were provided with an array of strategies that could be implemented to promote PELF in their jurisdictions. They also had the opportunity to draft an implementation plan and to make connections to support each other in the rollout of these activities.

A blueprint for society?

While the PELF action clearly takes place in the classroom, the PELF scope is undeniably much wider, as it aims for the development of the Francophonie of future generations. It was therefore important that we stayed focused on our goal throughout the development stage, while recording all other activities and initiatives that will have to occur in order for PELF to go beyond its scope and fit into a true societal project.

During our meetings and discussions, a number of actions and groups were identified as priorities:

A training tool for school principals

It is important to collaborate with school principals in the design of a tool that will help them support teachers and students in their identity-building process.

A close collaboration with parents

All school changes must be made in a spirit of cooperation with parents. Any major pedagogical shift towards a French-speaking society project needs to be well prepared. It is therefore important to work closely with parents to design tools that meet their needs.

Tools for leaders and community agents

First and foremost, community action must foster youth engagement. For leaders and community agents to be successful in that regard, they must have a good understanding of PELF and be receptive to the change in paradigm it brings. As such, tools must be developed in conjunction with them to respond adequately to their goals and learning context.

Tools to foster dialogue with youth

As school is an important social living environment, it is essential that youth be aware of the changes proposed by a pedagogical project specifically designed for the Francophone community.

A training for curriculum developers

Ministry curricula are teachers’ main sources of reference. It is thus important that they provide teachers with the best courses of action.

An approach for pre-service and in-service education providers

To effectively reach out to teacher training institutions, we must provide them with a user-friendly handbook that they could use to adequately prepare teachers of tomorrow and to provide practicing teachers with the tools they need.

Guidance for the community workers’ network

Community workers’ action varies considerably across the country. For example, the study on cultural ownership by youth2 shows the potential of cultural activities when they are properly supported. A national strategy related to pedagogy and based on the most successful experiences would make community workers’ services more relevant.

Making connections with the early childhood education sector

The early childhood years are considered the best period for the acquisition of language and the development of a first sense of community. We will therefore have to seize the opportunities to develop tools that will foster effective actions in this area.

Predicting the future

PELF is what it promotes. It aims to stimulate students’ self-confidence as much as it depends on our own self-confidence. The Francophonie is often hard on itself and has sometimes more confidence in what comes from somewhere else than in what it created. The education community is inundated with fashions, trends and new buzzwords, and French-language education is no exception! PELF will have to fit into this constantly changing world. Its primary force lies in the fact that it was born out of the research conducted by our researchers and out of the practical sense of our teachers in Francophone minority settings. Let’s hope that we will have enough confidence in ourselves to give PELF its rightful place.

1 These are the PELF key concepts that were described in previous issues of Perspectives.
2 L’appropriation culturelle des jeunes à l’école secondaire francophone en milieu minoritaire, CTF, 2009.

Ronald Boudreau is the Director of Services to Francophones of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

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