Policy for Heritage Language Instruction



Value of Heritage Languages

Goals of Heritage Language Instruction


Heritage Languages
Basic Heritage Language Courses
Bilingual Heritage Language Programs
Enhanced Heritage Language Courses

Program Descriptions


Implementation of Heritage Language Instruction

Requirements for Program Implementation
Responsibilities of Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning
Responsibilities of School Divisions
Responsibilities of Ethnocultural Communities


Manitoba is a culturally and racially diverse society in which all members have the freedom to preserve and share their respective cultural heritage while participating fully in all of its institutions. Integral to education's commitment to multicultural educational principles is

"the provision of opportunities under the law and through the school curriculum to provide instruction in both English and French languages, being the official languages recognized under the British North America Act, and in heritage languages to provide for the study of second languages by offering language options, in various forms, as part of the school program."

Administrative Handbook for Manitoba Schools 1988

"The fundamental principles that will guide us are pride in our diversity; a determination to achieve equality of opportunity for all in our community and a solid sense of partnership and co-operation..."

Manitoba's Policy for a Multicultural Society 1990

"Cultural pluralism is a positive force in society. Education must assist students from different cultural backgrounds to develop self-esteem and strong sense of personal identify as Canadians and as members of their ethnocultural group through an awareness of their own cultural, linguistic, and historical heritage."

Multicultural Education - A Policy for the 1990s


Languages other than English and French have been part of Manitoba's educational system since the 1870's. Prior to 1916, any language could be used as a language of instruction. The decision usually reflected the linguistic community served by the local school.

In 1916, with the establishment of a provincial department of education, English became the only authorized language of instruction in the province. Other languages, however, could still be taught before or after regular school hours.

French again became an eligible language for instruction in 1970.

In the 1950's, foreign language study was once again allowed during the school day in junior and senior high schools.

In 1969, the report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism highlighted the importance of developing one's cultural identity and recognized the value of studying languages other than English and French. The report sparked a renewed interest in heritage language study.

Amendments to the Public Schools' Act in 1980, 1981, and 1987 clarified the status of heritage languages within the public school system, and provided the enabling legislation that permitted the establishment of several heritage language programs in Manitoba schools.

Value of Heritage Languages

Language is both the repository and transmitter of a group's culture, history, and traditions. The study of heritage languages within the regular school day strengthens Manitoba's linguistic and cultural heritage, maintains a valuable economic resource, and promotes intercultural and cross-cultural understanding.

Heritage language programs are open to all students, not just to members of a particular ethnocultural background. Many classes include students from a variety of cultural linguistic backgrounds.

Goals of Heritage Language Instruction

Heritage language instruction:

  • promotes self-esteem;
  • enhances personal and cultural identity; 
  • increases the ability to adjust to new environments and modes of thinking, and acting;
  • expands cultural, economic, educational and professional opportunities;
  • prepares for living and working in cross-cultural environments; and
  • provides the opportunity for all Manitoba students to study other languages, in addition to English and French, regardless of their ethnocultural background.


Heritage Languages

For the purpose of this policy, heritage languages are defined as all languages other than English, French, or Aboriginal, taught in the public school system, during the regular school day either as:

  • a regular subject (basic heritage language course) or
  • as a language of instruction (bilingual program), or
  • as a language of instruction in an enhanced heritage language program.

NOTE: At the high school level, these languages may be taught either as heritage or international languages.

Basic Heritage Language Courses

In basic heritage language courses, also known as "language of study" courses, the target language is taught as a subject, in the same manner as other school subjects. The emphasis is on the acquisition of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) within the recommended time allotment.

Bilingual Heritage Language Programs

In bilingual heritage language programs, the target language is used as the language of instruction for not more than 50% of the school day. In Kindergarten, the target language may be used from 50 to 100 % of the time, at the discretion of the teacher and school administration.

Enhanced Heritage Language Courses

Enhanced heritage language courses are offered to middle and senior years students who have completed six or more years in a bilingual heritage language program, wish to continue more intensive language study and cannot meet the 50% target language requirement because of other academic requirements.

The courses take into account the higher degree of language skill that these students possess and involve the use of the heritage language as the language of instruction in two or more content areas.

Program Descriptions

Basic Heritage Language Courses

Basic heritage language courses may begin at the following levels: Gr. 1, Gr. 4, Gr. 7, Sr. 1, depending on school organization and scheduling.

Options: Students may be exposed to the heritage language from Grade 1 to provide a transition between the home and school environments and enable them to begin/maintain the study of one second language before they begin the study of French in Grade 4.

Students who start the study of a heritage language at Gr. 4 can follow a sequence similar to Basic French sequence:

  • 9-year sequence (Grade 4 to Senior 4)
  • 6-year sequence (Grade 7 to Senior 4)
  • 4-year sequence (Senior 1 to Senior 4)

within the recommended time allotments. Proficiency levels will vary according to the sequence that is being followed. Different sequences will achieve different language learning objectives.

Bilingual Heritage Language Programs

The entry points for bilingual heritage language programs are Kindergarten and Grade 1.

The following subjects are taught in the heritage language:

  • Language Arts, Social Studies, Art, Music, Physical Education, Health

The following subjects are taught in English:

  • English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science

Students also have the opportunity to study French starting at Grade 4.

Enhanced Heritage Language Courses

Enhanced heritage language courses may be offered from Grade 7. The minimum instructional time is 40 minutes per day course. The subjects taught in the heritage language are Language Arts plus a minimum of one other subject, usually Social Studies.

NOTE: The study of the heritage language includes the study of the culture that the language represents. The cultural milieu is further enhanced by student participation in specific cultural activities that are representative of the linguistic group.

Implementation of Heritage Language Instruction

Requirements for Program Implementation

1. Basic and Enhanced

Basic and enhanced courses may be offered with the following provisions:

  • that the program has sufficient enrolment;
  • that a qualified teacher, with demonstrated ability in the language, is available;
  • that an approved curriculum is available or, if a course is being introduced for which no curriculum is available, a proposal and a course of study has been submitted by a school board of a division or district and duly approved by the minister in the form and manner set out in the Act; and
  • that textbooks and supplementary materials have been authorized and approved.

2. Bilingual

Bilingual programs may be offered when:

  • a school division has approved the establishment of the program;
  • a sufficient number of students are enrolled in the program (Kindergarten and Grade 1 being the only entry points), to ensure that classes will be maintained and the program will continue from K-6;
  • a qualified teacher with demonstrated facility in the target language, who has Manitoba certification or its equivalent, is available, and the division agrees to hire him/her; and
  • an approved curriculum in the target language for 50% of the school day is available (including texts and suitable curriculum support materials).

Responsibilities of Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning

For all programs, Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning will:

  • identify goals and objectives for particular grade levels;
  • develop curricula and provide program supports;
  • identify and list approved/recommended textbooks and other suitable materials;
  • provide the necessary resources (1) to support curricula development and implementation, and (2) to develop and/or purchase textbooks and materials where necessary; plan in-service training and orientation sessions for teachers; and
  • provide ongoing consultative assistance.

Responsibilities of School Divisions

School divisions are expected to:

  • provide the necessary resources to support the implementation of heritage language programs, once they have been approved by the individual board;
  • hire qualified teachers with demonstrated facility in the language;
  • organize teacher in-services; including some that are language specific; and
  • ensure that all students in basic, bilingual, or enhanced heritage language programs are given the opportunity to study French.

School divisions are encouraged to:

  • develop policies and procedures for the implementation of heritage language programs within their jurisdictions.

Responsibilities of Ethnocultural Communities

Ethnocultural communities are encouraged to:

  • ensure that they are informed about current school division policies and initiatives in heritage language programming;
  • develop partnerships with school divisions to address issues in heritage language instruction; and
  • continue to sponsor a variety of community-based educational and cultural programs, as these are valuable resources that complement the heritage language programs.