Parents of French immersion students in B.C. are calling on the province to do more to ensure access to French-language education for the 2021/22 school year.
Enrolment in French immersion fell for the first time in 20 years as classes were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Education attributed the decline to the loss of non-resident students, but parents say online programs for French were ‘grossly insufficient’.
“When COVID first hit, there were a lot of parents looking for online courses in French — mostly at the middle school and high school level — and those courses simply did not exist,” said Glyn Lewis, executive director of Canadian Parents for French B.C. & Yukon. “It highlighted that there’s an inequality within our education system between online English courses and online French courses.”
The group is calling on the province to guarantee that French learners won’t be left behind again in the 2021/22 school year. But that decision is up to individual school boards.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education said French immersion students can take online programs offered by districts outside of the catchment area and it is expected that schools will provide information to parents on the number of available options to meet their students’ needs.
But Lewis said if parents want to ensure access to French programs, they’ll have to demand them at the local level.
“The most important thing is for parents to do is to be vocal, be active in their communities and to lobby for these programs to make sure they’re available and well supported.”
Over 53,500 students are enrolled in French immersion, accounting for roughly 9.4 per cent of all B.C. students.
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