English language support growing in Sask. schools

School divisions across Saskatchewan now have thousands of students whose first language is not English.

More than 8,000 students need EAL in Saskatoon, Regina

School divisions across Saskatchewan now have thousands of students whose first language is not English, Merelda Fiddler reports 2:12

While immigration is driving Saskatchewan's booming population, students in immigrant families often need English language support in school.

Over the past five years, that migration has changed demographics. School divisions across the province now have thousands of students whose first language is not English.

In Regina and Saskatoon, more than 8,000 students need extra help with English.

In Regina public schools, there are currently more than 3,000 English as an Additional Language (EAL) students in the system. Over the past five years, they have added anywhere from 400 to 500 per year.

This year, another 200 entered the system and the school board had to double the number of EAL teachers.

Four years ago, Saskatoon Catholic schools had about 250 students. Now, there's more than 1,400.

Emmanuel Navarette said he's excited about the new school year because he no longer has to take English language classes.

EAL students this year

Regina Public: 3,172
Regina Catholic : 1,682
Saskatoon Public: 2,160
Saskatoon Catholic: 1,400

Navarette arrived in Regina from the Philippines in 2009 without much English.

"I was pretty lucky, I have a friend she speaks both English and Tagalog," Navarette said. "It was easy for me to learn because I learned by her teaching me."

It wasn't just by luck that Navarette met another student from the Philippines. Almost half the students at St. Augustine Community School are from other countries.

They'll step in and help out a kid- Ryan Montague, Teacher

While English language support is a new challenge in Saskatchewan's schools, Ryan Montague, a Grade 5 teacher, said it's also created new opportunities for students.

"They'll step in and help out a kid if they're having some difficulty and give it to them in kid-friendly language too," Montague said.

Diane Cote, a superintendent with Saskatoon Catholic Schools, said having so many new immigrants is good for students.

"The opportunity to learn about different languages, different ways of celebrating holidays, what family looks like in different cultures," Cote said. "So there's certainly lots of opportunity our teachers embrace and make use of to enrich the classroom."

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