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Wait-lists for French immersion persist

Peace Arch Elementary has a French-immersion wait-list of 41 students for both kindergarten and Grade 1. - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Peace Arch Elementary has a French-immersion wait-list of 41 students for both kindergarten and Grade 1.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Thousands of students on the Semiahmoo Peninsula headed to class yesterday, some beginning the school year in a classroom that isn’t their first choice.

Dozens of students have again been shut out of early-French-immersion programs, as popularity of the program continues to hold.

Laronde Elementary has a waiting list of 26 for kindergarten entry and 32 for Grade 1 entry. At Peace Arch Elementary, the wait-list for early immersion is 41 for both kindergarten and Grade 1.

“There’s been waiting lists, particularly for the south schools, for French immersion for awhile,” said Doug Strachan, spokesperson for Surrey School District.

Late French immersion isn’t as popular. Neither Crescent Park Elementary nor Jessie Lee Elementary – the Peninsula’s two late-immersion schools – have wait lists for late entry, which begins in Grade 6.

Slight variations of the wait-list numbers – which are from the end of June – are expected during the first week of school, according to the district.

Early-immersion spaces are awarded through an online lottery. Parents who don’t win could still possibly register their child in an early immersion program elsewhere in Surrey. Programs at both Riverdale Elementary in North Surrey, and Cougar Creek Elementary near Scott Road, likely have space, but registration at either requires a commute of approximately a half-hour.

“If they want to ensure their child is going into French immersion, their best bet is to enrol at those French-immersion schools that have space, or are likely to have space,” said Strachan.

No new French spaces in Surrey are on the horizon, according to Strachan.

“It’s the same old story. We want to offer more to meet demand, but we need the space to do it.”

Glyn Lewis, executive director of Canadian Parents for French BC & Yukon, told Peace Arch News Tuesday growth in French immersion participation is "pretty much consistent across the province."

Lewis said the biggest challenge facing districts now is the shortage of qualified French teachers.

"The popularity of the program is putting significant pressure on the post-secondary institutions to supply enough teachers to fill all the new classrooms. This is something we've flagged with the provincial government and the teacher education programs."

The scale of this challenge is huge, said Lewis, adding it's going to take "some real concerted effort" to overcome it.

"They seem to get it, but the response is still slow moving."

Results of a recent survey found broad support for Canada’s policy of two official languages – English and French.

Revealed last Wednesday, a telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians found 88 per cent of respondents across Canada support the objectives of the Official Languages Act, including 85 per cent in B.C.

The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, an agent of Parliament, ordered the study earlier this year.

“Canada’s gradual acceptance of linguistic duality has made us more open, more inclusive, and readier to welcome others in our society. This puts us in a significantly different place than the United States, Britain and much of Europe,” Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages, said in a news release.

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