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B.C. facing French Immersion teacher shortage: report

There is a critical need for French language teachers in BC and the Yukon, says a report from the Canadian Parents for French

Trevor Crawley

There is a critical need for French language teachers in British Columbia and the Yukon, according to a report from the Canadian Parents for French, which was released a week ago.

In a survey of 86 school districts, a key finding from the report was that it is challenging to fill all available French immersion teaching positions with qualified teachers.

"Nearly one third of all students in BC are enrolled in the Core French (CF) program," read the report. "This proportion is largely a function of provincial legislation that requires all students in BC's public education system to learn an additional language between grades five and eight.

"For a host of reasons, including financial incentives from the Federal Government, the language primarily offered is French. According to a 2007 study, 78 per cent of elementary school Core French teachers and 71 per cent of those in middle school do not feel comfortable speaking French."

In terms of French programming in the Southeast School District, Superintendent Lynn Hauptman says that there are enough teachers for French Immersion programming.

"Our situation right now is we do have enough French Immersion teachers for our program, however, we don't have much in the way of any reserves in terms of teaching TOC's that can fill in for French Immersion teachers," she said. "So that's our biggest issue, is just not having those people here."

All the programs are 'well-subscribed', meaning that parents and students are interested in accessing French Immersion programming, she added.

In SD5 and Cranbrook, programming runs from Kindergarten to Grade 12 that come with all kinds of educational benefits.

"It gives them the ability to be fluent in a second language and in this case, a second official language and that in itself is always a wonderful skill to have," said Hauptman. "It's for people that are interested in learning a second language or who's parents want their children to have that flexibility of a second language and it's great that we have that opportunity here in our district."