French immersion conundrum

The frustration of parents unable to register their children in an early French immersion program, “Surrey needs French immersion fix” (The Leader, April 10), clearly indicates a demand far exceeding supply.

In the real world, this situation results in higher costs. Can French immersion continue to be offered as a free choice option for those lucky enough to register? If a school district offered guaranteed registration for French immersion would French immersion classes be subject to the same class size and composition as “regular” classes? Would these changes be what many parents want?

Parents register for French immersion for many reasons including numerous studies citing the life long cognitive benefits for those, who at a young age, are exposed to and learn a second language. Fluency in both of our official languages allows individuals to consider both private and public sector opportunities anywhere in Canada where companies and governments function in English or French.

Could another reason be that French immersion offers some of the benefits of attending a private school without the bother or cost of tuition? The demographics of those in a French immersion program appear much narrower than “regular” public school. French immersion students typically come from households with higher than average income and parents who often have the time and means to be more involved with their children’s education and development. This is obvious when it is noted that call parties are organized by cliques working to ensure their children are registered. Students benefit from being part of a select peer group sharing many of the same values and support networks, a situation not unlike that found in Traditional schools where parents claim uniforms negate social class.

Although children with English as a second language (ESL) were seldom registered for French immersion, many school districts note increases in ESL students as immigrant parents realize the increased value of the program. What about children with behavioural and learning issues? Are they included?

School districts have the unenviable task of trying to resolve a very difficult issue.


Larry Miller


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