The reform of the school calendar risks scaring off a large number of Flemish teachers who teach in immersion in the Walloon-Brussels Federation, warns the Union of Parents of Dutch Immersion Schools. Who is waiting for a strong gesture from Minister Désir.
The summer of 2022 will go down in history as the “Jellyfish Summer” due to a heat wave that hit all continents.
For language schoolsespecially in Dutch it is rather the school year 2022-2023 all hazards ! An exceptional moment for these facilities is the effect of the implementation of the reform of school timetables, voted for in the spring of 2022. From now on, there will be holidays for students and teachers of three communities of our small country will no longer match The Walloon-Brussels Federation systematically decided to thoroughly reorganize the rhythm of the school year for the alleged good of the pupils. A unilateral decision because, despite great hopes, two other communities did not follow in the footsteps of the reform.
For Dutch-speaking teachers practicing their profession in immersion education in the Walloon-Brussels Federation, this decision the effect of the bomb… or a drop of water that causes an already full vase to overflow.
Very often they are parents themselves and so are their children educated in Flemish educationclose to home or at least in the language spoken at home. However, as a result of this reform: no more holidays at the same time as their children! We can minimize the gap periods – “3-4 weeks, depending on the year” – for these teachers it is A movement of mercy. Salary lower than their colleagues practicing in Flanders, travel costs – and with rising fuel prices, what’s more! -, a working environment that leaves something to be desired, the technological backwardness of French-speaking schools compared to their Flemish counterparts, a total lack of educational support and recognition of the specificity of work in linguistic immersion and now a headache for family organization? Many have already said “STOP”, many others are taking a year to reflect, just to find out if they get their bearings and, above all, if anything changes in their immersion in the Walloon-Brussels Federation.
This is because, as in the song, “a sign will do.” Immersive education – education in short, by the way – is above all else a matter of passion. With a heavy heart, these teachers reluctantly leave an immersive project that they often helped build from scratch, pouring body and soul into to fill glaring gaps in support and didactic support for those projects. To quote one teacher, “their child, their immersion.” We keep humming, “Their son, their battle… but they must go”…
Unless. Unless the government of the Walloon-Brussels Federation, headed by its Minister of Education, sends a strong signal that translates the real the desire to recognize in teaching in linguistic immersion all its specifics and importance.
In the Belgian context, in this small country where three national languages coexist, linguistic immersion teaching allows overcoming old clichés and a priori languages, too often still a source of tension between communities.
The issue of bilingualism and learning Dutch in the Walloon-Brussels Federation has marked the Belgian news in recent months and is now even crossing institutional frameworks and community boundaries to become a real challenge for federal Belgium tomorrow. In the Belgian context, in this small country where three national languages coexist, linguistic immersion teaching allows overcoming old clichés and a priori languages, too often still a source of tension between communities. It is not a few extra lessons of a second language, plus the choice of Dutch or English in Wallonia at the beginning of the school year 2023, which will ensure the success of the famous slogan “everything bilingual in…”!
And besides, with what teachers? scare those on the spot nor does it help when the minister announces that 343 full-time second language teachers will need to be hired within a year to meet the goals of the government’s “bilingualism plan.” Lack of coherence, legislative schizophrenia? “To govern is to foresee”, they say: apparently the authorities of the Walloon-Brussels Federation did not foresee this massive exodus of Dutch-speaking teachers…
If the situation is serious, it is not – yet – hopeless. Many Dutch-speaking teachers would like nothing better than to continue teaching in their French-speaking schools. They expect, they hope to be heard, to be recognized. At the end of the parliamentary year, the minister announced to the members of the federation that during the 2022-2023 school year, the General Immersion Status Council will take place to assess the situation without taboos. We bet that the implementation of this announcement will be a first gesture, a step in the right direction for many immersion teachers.
Therefore, 2022-2023 must be linguistic immersion teaching…or there will be no more immersion!
Union of Parents of Dutch Immersion Schools (UPIN)
The headline is from the editorial office. Original name: 2022-2023: year of jellyfish for language education in the Walloon-Brussels Federation.