The growth of Francophonie in Old Ottawa East schools

Zacharie Landry

Education is at the heart of a vibrant and strong community. In Ottawa, where nearly 40% of the population speaks some level of French, it is of utmost importance that French education be accessible to all age groups. That is why schools in the diverse neighbourhood of Old Ottawa East have tried to ensure and support Francophone culture by offering courses and programs in French.

“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand” is an important quote for Au Coeur d’Ottawa Catholic Elementary School, and the school tries to apply it to every stage of their education. At Au Coeur d’Ottawa, they take pride in sharing Francophone culture through the use of various music and songs. In Au Coeur d’Ottawa classrooms, “students can tap to the rhythm of Francophone music every week through a Francophone song duel,” says Isabelle Beaudoin, Manager of Public Affairs and Communications. This practice has been a success, as the school reports that the children have been able to “increase their vocabulary and especially recognize the different musical styles.”

Photo Supplied

Photo Supplied

In terms of higher education, St. Paul University has found that collaboration with outside parties works very well to preserve the school’s Francophone identity. Chantal Beauvais, Rector at St. Paul’s University says that the school “has worked very hard with colleges such as La Cité and Collège Boréal.” St. Paul creates links between university and college programs, allowing higher education in French to reach the widest possible audience. Beauvais also says that when the university “hires a person — a professor or an employee — we make sure that the person is capable of expressing him or herself in French.” Since Beauvais arrived at St. Paul in 2009, the rate of Francophone students at the institution has risen from about 33% to 50%. While these practices may require a great deal of follow-up, they have undoubtedly contributed to the growth of a Francophone community.

For the younger generation, Rainbow Kidschool helps create comfortable environments for children of all backgrounds to come together through their extracurricular activities. Roxeanne Marberl, the school’s principal, says they “take children from both Francojeunesse public elementary school and Au Coeur d’Ottawa.” Marberl says Rainbow Kidschool has bilingual educators. This creates a safe and inclusive home and allows French students to feel comfortable with their identity while meeting children from diverse cultures.

With respect to high school students, Immaculata High School prepares its students for the adult world by administering exams that give the graduate a Diplôme d’études en langue française. The DELF is administered by the French Embassy and certifies that students have French language skills. Lisa Shea, Head of the Department of Modern Languages at Immaculata, says that “many immersion students will be taking courses in French at the University of Ottawa as part of their immersion program,” which underlines the importance for Immaculata to ensure that its students are ready for careers in French

With a campus located on Lees Avenue, the University of Ottawa, the largest English-French bilingual university in the world, is able to offer opportunities to Francophones in Old Ottawa East. Isabelle Mailloux, Head of Media Relations, says, “The richness of our bilingualism and our commitment to promoting Francophonie in an exceptional cultural environment are among our proudest achievements.”

At the University of Ottawa, “Francophonie occupies a special place” among its research and study programs. At the Lees campus in particular, the University houses several academic units, including the Faculty of Health Sciences. Since the day the University of Ottawa occupied the land and buildings of the Lees Campus, the school has maintained a strong commitment to providing opportunities for both French and English students, allowing a culturally diverse academic environment to develop.

For students of all ages, Old Ottawa East is home to a variety of educational centres that cater to the needs of the neighbourhood’s Francophone community. Through managerial supporting measures, academic programs, and even recreational activities, French education is taken seriously at all levels in the neighbourhood.

As long as these schools continue in this same direction, Old Ottawa East will only become a more pronounced beacon of hope for multiculturalism in our nation’s capital.

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