03/07/2013 01:24 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Province lifts deadline on Grade 6 English program

The province says French schools no longer have to implement an intensive English program for Grade 6 students

Two years ago, the Liberals set aside $80 million to help children learn basic spoken English.

On Thursday, Quebec Minister of Education Marie Malavoy said the Liberals took an "authoritarian" approach when they brought in the intensive English program.

The previous government wanted all schools to start offering it within a five-year period.

Malavoy said while the Parti Québécois does want Quebec students to learn English, they believe the deadline would come too soon for most schools.

Thirteen per cent of the province's schools currently offer the program, in which students spend half the year practicing how to speak English.

Malavoy says the program is being criticized because it could leave children with learning difficulties behind. She said the extra workload caused by the program could also be too much for Grade 6 teachers.

But on Thursday, the Quebec association for learning disabilities (AQETA) reiterated its support for the English program.

"Parents are very supportive of the program, even those whose children have learning disabilities," said Jean-Louis Tousignant, chair of the AQETA's administrative council.

Schools still have the option to sign on to the program, and those who are already offering it can continue to do so.