Sunday June 19, 2016

Has French immersion for school children failed to live up to its promise?

With the rate of enrolment on the rise, some French immersion schools are capping the number of new students admitted. At the same time, complaints about the quality of teaching are being raised. What do you think of French immersion schools?

With the rate of enrolment on the rise, some French immersion schools are capping the number of new students admitted. At the same time, complaints about the quality of teaching are being raised. What do you think of French immersion schools? (Getty Images)

Listen to Full Episode 1:53:00

The popularity of French immersion is exploding in Canada.  But stats suggest the number of bilingual Canadians is dropping. Is the dream of bilingualism failing? With guest host Asha Tomlinson.

Has French immersion for school children failed to live up to its promise? Half a century since Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's dream of a bilingual Canada changed the face of schooling, French immersion programs are booming.

French immersion has become so popular in public schools from St. John's to Winnipeg to Victoria, that many parents find themselves competing for spots. Enrolment has jumped by 40% over the last decade. And some schools districts, like the one in Guelph, Ont., have had to cap the number of students they accept.

There are also fears that as ambitious parents use French immersion to give their children a competitive edge, they are also creating unhelpful divisions in the public education system. Some even argue that immersion is a way to give kids a private-style education, in smaller classes, without the hefty price tag.

Others point to a shortage of qualified French teachers and say that while many enrol, few students emerge with proficiency in both official languages. Still others point to the resources that are sucked out of the education system to support French immersion — to the detriment of the English stream.

What are your experiences with French immersion? Is the system working for you, where you live?

Live Blog

Guests

Caroline Alphonso is the education reporter for The Globe and Mail.

Carolyn Stacey is a French immersion teacher in Newfoundland.

Wendy Carr is associate dean of teacher education at the University of British Columbia. 

Links & Articles

CBC.ca

National Post

The Globe and Mail

Maclean's

Canadian Living

Today's Parent

Other sources