PEI

Admission rules could be changing for French schools on P.E.I.

P.E.I.'s French Language School Board is considering changes to its admission policy after a significant growth in enrolments has put a strain on the Island's six French language schools.

'We want to make sure if we accept some students that they will succeed in their education'

The board estimated that non-rights holders make up two to three per cent of the current student population. (Julien Lecacheur/CBC)

P.E.I.'s French Language School Board is considering changes to its admission policy after a significant growth in enrolments has put a strain on the Island's six French-language schools. 

The French language student population on P.E.I. has surpassed 1,000, an increase of 22 per cent over the past five years, according to La Commission scolaire de langue française.

That increase has brought some challenges, including financial ones, as schools try to provide resources for students who haven't acquired the language yet.

Non-rights holders

In a news release following its monthly meeting, the board said it was revising its admission policy to "better delineate access to non-rights holding parents."

Non-rights holding parents include immigrant parents, and others, who don't have a constitutional right to a French-language education under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

P.E.I.'s French student population has surpassed 1,000, which is an increase of 22 per cent over the past five years, according to the board. (Julien Lecacheur/CBC)

Currently, those parents can apply for their children to attend a French-language school on P.E.I.

"Non-rights holders, if they they want to get in a French school, they have to go through an evaluation for that child," said Gilles Benoit, chair of the board.

"We are looking at that right now because we want to make sure if we open the door to more non-right holders, that we have the proper tools to evaluate those students to make sure they will have success in a French school."

Benoit says some English students may be able to come to a French-language school because they went through a daycare centre and can speak French. (Julien Lecacheur/CBC)

More immigrant families

The parents and students who are non-rights holders are supposed to be interviewed, to see if the parents can support the child and if the child can speak French, but the board said that wasn't always happening.

"We also have a situation where there's a lot more of immigrant students entering, that want to enter our school," Benoit said.

"Because they have the right to choose between French and English, so sometimes they don't have neither one of them and they want to choose French education. So we want to make sure that we will be able to accommodate them."

École François Buote held a ceremony to unveil its $10 million expansion in 2016. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

Benoit said some English students may qualify to attend a French-language school because they went through a daycare centre and can speak French, but he said that's not a very significant number. 

The board estimated that non-rights holders make up less than ten per cent of the current student population.

"If we are to open our schools to non-right holders, they will have to demonstrate that they are able to to communicate, to read and write in French," Benoit said.

"Because we want to make sure if we accept some students that they will succeed in their education. We don't want to have those students fail."

The French Language School Board has set a goal of 1,500 students by 2026-27. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

Proof of rights

The board said there will also be changes for rights-holding families who are applying for a French-language school on P.E.I. 

They will need to provide evidence of their French-language qualifications, proving that either their parents or grandparents are francophone or attended a French-language school.

The board says there will also be changes for rights-holding families who are applying for a French-language school on P.E.I. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The revised policy will have its third reading during the board's March 10 meeting.

The French Language School Board has set a goal of 1,500 students by 2026-27.

Important decisions

The president of the Fédération des parents de l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard, Melissa MacDonald, said she was a "bit surprised" by the news from the board.

She said these are important decisions that need to be discussed with school administrators, and hopes that administrators from every school will be involved in a decision that will affect them all.

The federation is going to discuss the issue at their next meeting on Feb. 7.

MacDonald said the federation finds the changes to be positive but wants to make sure they "consider all the angles." 

More P.E.I. news

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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