Letters to the Editor

Make French immersion a priority

Parents in Surrey have been going to incredible lengths to get their children registered in the popular French immersion program for September 2014. A few weeks ago, parents like Erin McCall and Fiona McLeod, spent hours calling a Surrey School District registration hotline trying, in vain, to be one of the lucky few to get a coveted kindergarten spot in a local French immersion program. There were stories of some families organizing “call-parties” to increase their chances to make it through.

Erin and Fiona’s children are currently on French immersion waiting lists for the coming school year – they’re number 18 and 26 respectively. It’s almost certain their children will be turned away. Unfortunately, there are many more Surrey families in a similar situation.

The Surrey School District is one of the fastest-growing districts in the province. This year there are 72,273 students in the district – a 3,164-student increase over five years.

Given the demand for French immersion programs in Surrey, it seems sensible that the district would develop a plan to expand French immersion programs and create additional opportunities. In the Victoria school district, more than 17 per cent of all students are enrolled in the French immersion program; in Surrey it’s less than five per cent. The provincial average for French immersion participation is 8.8 per cent, and growing at a steady pace.

Parents in Surrey are looking to challenge their children and want them to have all the benefits of learning an additional language. According to the latest federal census, official-language bilinguals make, on average, 10 per cent more and have an unemployment rate three-percent lower than their monolingual counterparts.

There are also the countless studies that point to the cognitive, social, and cultural developments one gains by learning multiple languages..

We encourage all parents and families who are on wait lists in Surrey to reach out, to get organized, and to make your voices heard to school district staff and school trustees.

Given the strong demand from parents, we call on the Surrey School District to make French immersion accessibility and equal opportunity a priority.

Let’s create those wonderful life-changing opportunities for all children in Surrey.

 

Glyn Lewis, Executive Director

Canadian Parents for French BC & Yukon

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