The reform of the school calendar risks alienating a large number of Flemish teachers who teach immersion in the Walloon-Brussels Federation, warns the Union of Parents of Dutch Immersion Schools. Who is waiting for a strong gesture from Minister Desire.
The summer of 2022 will go down in history as the “summer of jellyfish” because of the heat wave that covered all continents.
For language immersion schoolsspecifically in Dutch, it is rather the academic year 2022-2023, which is that of all hazards ! The exceptional “hot weather” for these institutions is the effect of the implementation of the school timetable reform voted in the spring of 2022. From now on, the vacations of the students and teachers of the three communities of our small country they will no longer match systematically, the Wallonia-Brussels federation decided to reorganize in depth, for the supposed good of students, the rhythm of a school year. A unilateral decision, because despite great hopes, the other two communities have not followed the steps of the reform.
For Dutch-speaking teachers practicing immersion in the Walloon-Brussels Federation, this decision has bomb effect… or the drop of water that overflows the already too full vase.
Very often they themselves are parents, and their children are studied in Flemish education, close to their home or at least in the language spoken at home. However, as a result of this reform: no more holidays at the same time with their children! We can minimize the gap periods – “3-4 weeks, depending on the year” – for these teachers is A movement of mercy. A salary lower than that of their colleagues practicing in Flanders, travel costs – and with rising fuel prices, even more! -, a working environment that leaves much to be desired, the technological backwardness of French-speaking schools compared to their Flemish counterparts, a complete lack of educational support and recognition of the specificity of language immersion work, and now a headache for family organization? Many have already said “STOP”, many others are giving themselves a year to think, just to see if they find their way and especially if something changes to immerse themselves in the Wallonia-Brussels federation.
That’s because, as the song goes, “one sign will do.” Immersion education—education, in short, by the way—is first and foremost a matter of passion. These teachers reluctantly leave, with a heavy heart, a fascinating project that they often helped build from the ground up, in which they invested body and soul to fill the obvious gaps in support and didactic support for those projects. To quote one teacher, “their baby, their immersion.” Let’s keep humming, “Their son, their fight… but they must go”…
Unless. Unless the government of the Walloon-Brussels Federation, led by its Minister of Education, sends a strong signal that translates into real desire for recognition in language immersion teaching all its specificity and importance.
In the context of Belgium, this small country where three national languages coexist, linguistic immersion teaching makes it possible to go beyond 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 now it even transcends institutional frameworks and community boundaries to become a real challenge for federal Belgium from tomorrow. In the context of Belgium, this small country where three national languages coexist, linguistic immersion teaching makes it possible to go beyond old clichés and a priori languages, too often still a source of tension between communities. Not the few extra hours of a second language, but also the choice of Dutch or English in Wallonia, at the beginning of the academic year 2023, will ensure the success of the well-known slogan “all bilinguals at…”!
And besides, with which teachers? scare those on the spot it will not help the situation when the Minister announces that it will now be necessary to recruit 343 equivalent full-time second language teachers within a year to meet the targets 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 mass 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, in front of the deputies of the Federation, the Minister announced the holding in the academic year 2022-2023 of the General Estates of Immersion to take stock of the situation, without taboo. We bet that the implementation of this message will represent, for many immersion teachers, a first gesture, a step in the right direction.
Therefore, 2022-2023 must be that of language immersion teaching…or immersion will be no more!
Union of Parents of Dutch Immersion Schools (UPIN)
The title is the editor’s. Original title: 2022-2023: the jellyfish year for language immersion in education in the Wallonia-Brussels federation.