Students from Beurling Academy are the first in Quebec’s English public school system to write the DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) exam, an internationally recognized measure of French as a second language.
According to Marie Wahba, Assistant Director of Educational Services at Lester B Pearson School District (LBPSB), one of the unique aspects of the exam is that it assesses how well students understand and communicate, not just their ability to memorize grammar and verb conjugation. It provides a standardized assessment of written, oral and verbal comprehension in French, which provides important feedback for students who want to master the language for personal or professional reasons.
“Writing exams is not their favourite thing,” Wahba said. “What was enlightening to me was to see that the students were eager to do this exam, and they were very eager afterwards to see if they passed. It seemed to mean more to them than any board or ministry exam.”
Thirty students at Beurling wrote the test. Most opted for the B1 exam, and became certified as proficient in French. Two students took the more challenging B2 test for advanced French. All students passed.
Wahba noted that although the English school board’s French success rates are consistently high, many Anglophone students in secondary worry they haven’t acquired the level they will need to find work after high school. Some even believe they will have no choice but to leave Quebec. She said the DELF exam is motivating to students because it can help students convince employers and post-secondary admissions departments that their French is strong enough to work or study in their second language.
Wahba said Beurling intends to continue offering the DELF exam and she hopes to see it offered to students at other schools in the district within the next few years.