Both the local Canadian Parents for French and Northwest Catholic District School Board should be lauded for keeping the French Immersion program afloat at the senior kindergarten level here this September despite enrolment that falls short of the minimum number of students the board requires.
The value of local students becoming fluent in French cannot be understated. Canada is a bilingual country and, as such, many jobs, particularly in the federal civil service, require applicants to speak both official languages.
Knowing a second language also looks great on a résumé—even if the job you’re applying for doesn’t require French. It’s an asset you bring to the table over other applicants.
Then there’s the social and cultural aspects. Imagine attending a national conference or convention some day and being unable to effectively communicate with fellow delegates who hail from Quebec. Opportunities to network or simply broaden your horizons are lost, and potential friendships missed.
Unfortunately, while the French Immersion program has been given a reprieve for this year, it’s future definitely remains on thin ice as long as enrolment remains low. Part of the problem, of course, is that there are fewer students starting school here because the area’s population is dropping and families are getting smaller.
As well, the high attrition rate between when students begin French Immersion in kindergarten and the time they reach Grade 3 suggests the program needs to be revamped. Then there’s the ongoing problem of getting enough qualified teachers to come here.
On the bright side, the local CPF is willing to take on the challenge of promoting the benefits of French Immersion to parents of young children while also looking for ways to improve the program.
It will take that kind of enthusiasm and commitment to preserve such a worthwhile program like French Immersion here, both for the benefit of our children and, ironically, as yet one more reason for young families to remain in and/or move to our area.