Growing French school enrolment 'quite the challenge'

The French School Board on P.E.I. has hit another record for student enrolment.

Numbers up almost 10%

Many students are walking into the classroom with no knowledge of French. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

P.E.I.'s French Language School Board has hit another record for student enrolment.

Overall, there's an almost 10 per cent increase from last year, with more than 1,000 students enrolled in French schools this September.

School board chair Gilles Benoit said the growing numbers mean more resources are needed.

"It's quite the challenge," said Benoit.

"A lot of [the students] didn't have French at all, or almost none. So for us it's having the resources in order to support the families and also support the teachers in the classrooms."

In some schools as many as half of the students entering kindergarten have no French, said Benoit. He said the children pick up French quickly, but it is an added challenge in the classroom.

Bilingual benefit

Benoit said a lot of new students are coming because their families are seeing the French schools as an opportunity for their children.

"Parents understand that for their kids it's a plus to be able to have a second language and a second culture and being fully bilingual," he said.

Gilles Benoit would like to see children given more opportunities to learn French before kindergarten. (CBC)

The French School Board has been negotiating with the Education Department for more teachers. The province says any new teachers will be placed in the areas of greatest need.

The French Language School board received 4.5 new teaching positions in this year's budget. That's 15 per cent of the new positions. The French Language School Board serves 4.8 per cent of overall public school student population.

In the long term, Benoit said the board would like to see more children in French early-learning classrooms, so they can start picking up the language when they are three or four, instead of in kindergarten.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning


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