Future nurses, teachers flock to bilingual programs at Sask. post-secondary institution
The students will contribute to Saskatchewan's already growing bilingual community
Prospective teachers and nurses used to have to choose between French and English instruction in Saskatchewan.
La Cité universitaire francophone, the province's only dedicated French post-secondary institution, has been working on a third option since 2017: bilingual courses.
The third cohort of bilingual nurses is set to begin classes this fall.
In collaboration with the University of Regina and Sask Polytech, La Cité université francophone offers degrees where instruction is offered in both English and French.
The federally and provincially funded French institution, which is in Regina, has a mandate to develop post-secondary programs for all Francophones in the province.
Future nurses in the program acquire the language skills to serve the Francophone communities in Saskatchewan. La Cité université francophone dean Emmanuel Aito says the program has become economically viable in just two years.
"There are other collaborations also in the pipeline and in the next year or so we hope to see those come to fruition," Aito said.
Saskatchewan's Francophone communities are losing French speakers steadily. The surge in bilingualism is significant, but can't keep up enough to offset the loss.
Aito said teachers graduate from the program prepared to instruct French Immersion programs.
"It's been over 3,000 students enrolled [in 2018/19] in French Immersion programs and in the Fransaskois system we've seen over 1,000," Aito said. He notes that less than two per cent of the population in Saskatchewan are Fransaskois.
French-English bilingualism has increased by five per cent since 2001, according to a recent Statistics Canada study comparing language statistics from 2001 to 2016.
Enrolment numbers point to increased bilingualism at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, too.
Henri Biahé teaches a French-English translation class at the U of S. Enrolment in the program increased by 50 per cent last year, to his surprise. He had to move into a new classroom to accommodate everyone.
"English Canadians are also part of the solution to the utilization and the viability of the French language Saskatchewan," said Biahé, echoing Aito's findings at La Cité universitaire francophone.
According to Aito, newcomers to Canada are very interested in adding both national languages to their repertoire and many head to the U of R and La Cité universitaire francophone to do so.
To earn a diploma, students require a certain level of French knowledge and bilingualism. They must be able to function in a university setting in French. For instance, they must be able to write an essay and follow lectures.
Aito says that when he gets together with friends in the community, they often lament their lack of French skills. La Cité universitaire francophone has programs for beginners like them, too.
"We have people in the public service who come in to take classes. We have judges, bankers, business executives," said Aito.
The classes are part of a continuing education initiative.
There is also a stream for those who want to improve their French enough to study in the language and possibly take a bilingual course.
"It's a wonderful stepping stone that is an immersive program that lasts for eight months and the students are all kept together," he said.
Part of the program includes a visit to Francophone communities to see bilingualism and the Fransaskois community in action.
Aito said the university receives about $2 million in federal and provincial funding annually.