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French immersion student numbers up across B.C.

French is the new black as school comes back into session for students across the Island and B.C.

According to a recent study by Canadian Parents for French, B.C. and Yukon division, French immersion enrolment in B.C.’s public education system has reached a record 15th year of consecutive growth.

Figures indicate that this year 47,857 students – or 8.5 per cent of the student population in B.C.  – are now registered in the program. There are also more than 187,000 students learning French through basic core French.

Of the 7,894 students registered in kindergarten to Grade 5 in the Greater Victoria School District (SD61), 23.4 per cent are enrolled in French immersion. A further 25.3 per cent of Grade 6 to 8 students are registered in the program at the middle school level. High school registration numbers for the district are not yet available.

“Yes, French immersion is on the rise in our area, especially for our kindergarten levels,” said Simon Burgers, modern language coordinator for SD61. “French immersion in Victoria has grown on an annual basis and Victoria has seen an increase in kindergarten registrations in French immersion.”

Burgers says Victoria lays claim to the largest French immersion program per total student enrolment in the province.

“The Greater Victoria School District continues to lead the way in offering our families many educational program options,” said Wendy Holob, principal of École Willows Elementary. “We offer sport academies, schools of choice, and French immersion programs as opportunities to meet individual student’s interests and strengths. French immersion is one of these exciting programs available to our families. In their own ways, each of these programs adds to our vibrant school environments.”

According to Statistics Canada, regardless of mother tongue, those with immersion skills have an employment rate higher than the national average, and an unemployment rate of four per cent (under the national average of 7.7 per cent.)

“We believe French programs are popular because they are widely recognized by parents as providing young students with the tools and experiences that will enrich their lives and help them prepare for the future,” said Debra Pool, president of Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon, an organization dedicated to promoting second language opportunities for all young students.

To learn more about the French immersion program, go to sd61.bc.ca.

news@mondaymag.com

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