British Columbia

B.C. government looks to Europe to recruit French-speaking teachers

Schools across British Columbia need French teachers, so the province is turning its recruitment efforts to France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Education Ministry is sending a delegation to France, Belgium and the Netherlands to promote teacher exchanges

The shortage of French immersion teachers in Canada is a chronic problem that school boards and governments are trying to address. (Canadian Parents for French)

Schools across British Columbia desperately need French teachers and the province is turning its recruitment efforts across the ocean. 

The B.C. Education Ministry is sending a delegation to Europe next week, from April 3 to 6, with hopes of signing government-to-government agreements with France, Belgium and the Netherlands to promote teacher mobility and exchanges.

"There is a shortage of French teachers in almost every community around the province," said Glyn Lewis, executive director of the B.C.-Yukon Branch of Canadian Parents for French.

Traditionally, the province has recruited French teachers from Quebec, but the teacher shortage has become a national issue and so B.C. is competing with other provinces for French-speaking teachers, Lewis said.

"The pool has gotten smaller and smaller in Canada so we need to look abroad for our short-term needs," Lewis told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

More than 50,000 students are currently enrolled in French immersion programs in B.C., nearly 10 per cent of the province's public school population.

For those who are not enrolled but want to be, the wait lists can be intimidating. 

"It's pretty dire and it's been pretty dire for at least four or five years now," Lewis said.

Growing shortage of teachers

Last year's Supreme Court of Canada ruling requiring smaller class sizes brought the issue to a head.

The Vancouver School Board cut French immersion spaces for kindergarten students by nearly 25 per cent because of the shortage of qualified teachers.

"We're hearing from other communities, like in Langley and the Interior, where they simply have no French teachers on their teacher-on-call list," Lewis added.

The recruitment efforts include plans for teacher exchanges, with English-speaking teachers from B.C. heading abroad and French-speaking ones coming to classrooms here.

"Some of the agreements that they are looking to sign are going to be short-term agreements, but the hope is that some of them would want to stay afterwards," said Lewis.

Education Minister Rob Fleming, Vancouver School Board superintendent Suzanne Hoffman and B.C. Teachers' Federation president Glen Hansman will be on the recruitment trip. 

The Education Ministry expects to spend about $40,000 on the trip, while the VSB and the BCTF will cover their own costs.

With files from The Early Edition.