10/11/2012 01:18 EDT | Updated 12/11/2012 05:12 EST

PQ wants a 'political takeover' of schools: opposition

MONTREAL - Quebec's opposition is accusing the new Parti Quebecois government of planning to turn the province's schools into political assembly lines for churning out supporters.

It reacted angrily to news Thursday that the PQ will decrease English instruction on its list of priorities and increase teaching the history of Quebec's sovereignty movement.

The two bigger opposition parties condemned the announcement by Education Minister Marie Malavoy.

"What she's saying is that, for Quebec's schools, it's less English and more sovereignty," said the Liberals' interim leader, Jean-Marc Fournier.

"Her desire to proceed with a political takeover of our schools must be vigorously resisted."

He said the policies are inspired by the PQ's hardline wing — not by what's best for Quebec.

Fournier was reacting to remarks by Malavoy, who outlined some of her plans in a newspaper interview.

She said she wants to abolish the practice of mandatory English lessons starting in Grade 1; slow down the implementation of intensive English in Grade 6; and change a high-school history course to increase the focus on the national-unity debate.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Malavoy reiterated that she supports English instruction.

She just questioned whether the education system was ready for the reforms being prepared by the previous Liberal government, which wanted to introduce intensive English sessions across the province for sixth graders by 2015.

Malavoy said she has been receiving reports about complications with implementing the program.

"Intensive English is something we look kindly upon," Malavoy said. "(But) what do we do with students who have learning difficulties? Until we've answered some of these questions I can't see how we would say, 'We're staying the course,' and it'll be uniform across Quebec in 2015...

"I absolutely hope that Quebec students learn English and learn it well. With respect to the objective, I'm not calling it into question at all."

But her opponents called into question her priorities.

The Coalition party described the plan as a step in the wrong direction for Quebec. One Coalition critic said it would deprive young Quebecers of a critical "tool" for success in the 21st century economy.

"We need to stop looking at English as Lord Durham and the Plains of Abraham," Gerard Deltell said, referring to the 18th century Seven Years' War in which the United Kingdom gained control of France's Canadian territories.

"They want to instrumentalize education in service of a political cause."

-With files by Lia Levesque