A local school district boasts one of the highest shares of students in French immersion.
Statistics from the Canadian Parents for French British Columbia and Yukon show 10.8 per cent of students in School District 63 (Saanich) – 912 – had registered in French immersion, a new record, according to the organization. The provincial figure was 9.5 per cent – 53,487 students across British Columbia.
“French [immersion] is a highly sought after program of choice in Saanich schools,” said David Eberwein, superintendent, when asked about the numbers. “We currently have two elementary schools, a middle school and a secondary school, which house our [French immersion] program. All [four] schools are dual-track and have a robust enrolment.”
According to estimated figures, Deep Cove Elementary has approximately 215 French immersion students, while Keating Elementary has 326 students. Bayside Middle school has approximately 212 French immersion students, while Stelly’s secondary has about 215 students for a total number of 968 students – a figure above but in line with the figures from the Canadian Parents for French.
Overall, the report shows that provincewide, French immersion enrolment has been increasing for 20 consecutive years. “As a result of the booming popularity of this well-established program, districts around the province are scrambling to find enough qualified teachers and teaching assistants,” it reads.
Eberwein can relate.
“As most districts in the province continue to do, we look for highly qualified French immersion teachers,” he said. “At this time, we have filled all of our classrooms but are experiencing a shortage on our [teachers-on-call] list. We would like to add a few more [French immersion] teachers to this list if possible. With the program being in high demand, finding qualified teachers is certainly an ongoing focus for us.”
Local universities continue to graduate French immersion specialists, but it is an area where demand is outstripping local supply, said Eberwein, adding that the province is working to improve out-of-province recruitment.
For Eberwein, French immersion has become an integral part of the school district, home to 7,020 students.
“The [French immersion] program brings a wonderful culture to our district as French [immersion] is not just a program that teaches curriculum in French, but our teachers do a wonderful job of enriching the program with French culture, songs and traditions,” he said. “It is well established and continues to be an important component of our program offerings.”