Future uncertain for supply of French immersion teachers in Waterloo region

Trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board are drafting a letter to Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter asking for her help to manage the supply of French immersion teachers to the area.
Demand for French immersion in the Waterloo Region District School Board has increased by 12 per cent in the past five years. (Jean-Christophe/AFP/Getty Images)

Trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board are drafting a letter to Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter, asking for her help to manage the supply of French immersion teachers to the area. 

French immersion teachers are in short supply across Canada. Locally, the district has seen a 12 per cent increase in demand over the last five years, board spokesman Nick Manning said.

"That steady growth puts more pressure on the system to make sure that we've got suitably qualified and suitably able French speakers in the system," Manning told CBC News. 

"We're very lucky. We've got what we need today."

The problem lies as the board looks to the future, he said. 

"If we continue to see this growth, the amount of people that we see apply for French jobs in this region is very small compared to those who apply for English-speaking jobs and that gives us some pause for concern for the future."

They need to be able to speak French- Nick Manning, spokesman, WRDSB

Manning said on average, an English occasional teacher or long-term occasional job posting is flooded with hundreds of applicants.

French postings see three or four. 

Hard to find fluent teachers

The board also struggles with ensuring those applications have strong enough language skills to run a classroom. 

"Occasionally we have some difficulty making sure that we've got fluent French speakers to fill in from our supply lists and long-term supply lists for when teachers are off sick or taking professional development."

As a result, Manning said, the board has had to set the bar high for French proficiency; interviewees are now required to answer 50 per cent of their interview in French.

"A grade eight [student] could walk up to them in the classroom and ask them anything. And it's not enough for them to need to check something on the internet or check their pronunciations. They need to be able to speak French," Manning told The Morning Edition guest host Colin Butler Tuesday.

Better education needed

The district's letter to the Ministry of Education is still being drafted, but will ask Hunter to look at ways to better support teacher colleges.

Manning said trustees would like to see expanded French programs and more French spoken in teacher training programs in Ontario.

With files from the CBC's Kate Bueckert


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