February 3 to 9 is French Immersion Celebration Week, and here in Cranbrook, TM Roberts, who has 248 of its 360 enrolled in the French Immersion program, will be commemorating the occasion throughout the week, culminating with a bingo night on Friday.
“This week marks the 50th year that French Immersion has been taught in British Columbia,” said TM Roberts vice principal Carissa Hart. She said her school hosted the Maple Man last week to learn about Quebecois culture and how to harvest maple syrup using traditional methods.
Then on Friday at 5:30 p.m., the Cranbrook/Fernie chapter of the Canadian Parents for French will host a bilingual bingo night at the school.
Hart said the grade 4/5 and grade 6 class hope to host a Carnaval d’hiver, or Winter Carnival, before the Spring Break, depending on what the weather does.
According to Hart, the French Immersion program continues to thrive here in School District 5, with approximately 10 per cent of its students registered in it.
“In the elementary schools our French Immersion classes are nearly at capacity,” Hart said, “starting with two kindergarten classes at TM and a late immersion program at Isabella Dicken in Fernie, which begins in grade four and has had to limit enrolment.”
As Canada is a bilingual nation, Hart points out several different benefits to preserving and encouraging French Immersion education, including opening up future job opportunities and boosting brain development, but it’s not without its challenges.
“Learning a second language also provides opportunities for students to connect to Franco-Canadian culture,” she said. “Being in B.C. poses challenges to keeping the language learning relevant as students aren’t as exposed to the target language as they would be in other provinces, such as Ontario.”
“Our French-speaking teachers, education assistants and community volunteers are invaluable in creating a rich and meaningful learning environment for our students,” Hart continued. “Similar to other districts across Canada, finding qualified French-speaking teachers continues to be a challenge.”
Provincially, the Ministry of Education has launched a new website called Learning in French Together (Lift), which provides English and French tools for parents and educators to support their students as they learn the French language.
“French immersion has been offered in B.C. schools for over 50 years and continues to grow in popularity,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education in a press release. “French immersion creates lifelong opportunities for students, and this week is a great opportunity to say a big ‘merci’ to the educators and school staff who make this possible.”
According to this release from the Government of B.C., 36 new teachers have been certified to work in B.C., coming from France and Belgium as part of an educator-exchange program, in an effort to increase French Immersion education across the province. An additional 60 applicants are current being evaluated currently.
“We continue to invest in the francophone community through strong French immersion programs and by helping to preserve its cultural heritage in B.C., so this community can continue to thrive,” said Adrian Dix, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs in B.C.
“We have invested $500,000 in funding to support the 2020 Canadian Francophone Games that will be held for the first time in Victoria from July 14-18, 2020, to showcase sport, arts and leadership. I encourage you to reach out to the francophone community and enjoy an event to celebrate our strong French heritage.”
TM Roberts is the only elementary school in Cranbrook that offers a French Immersion program with entry in Kindergarten and grade one. Registration is currently open for French Immersion kindergarten, which is open to all kindergarten-aged students in Cranbrook.
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