Demand for French immersion is on the rise leading to a shortage of qualified teachers for the programs across B.C. (Canadian Parents for French)

Demand for French immersion is on the rise leading to a shortage of qualified teachers for the programs across B.C. (Canadian Parents for French)

Pressure to recruit French immersion teachers with increasing enrolment in B.C.

Provincewide popularity on the rise leading to nationwide recruiting drives

With increased interest in French immersion in B.C. comes increased pressure to find qualified teachers.

Currently, teaching programs in British Columbia are not meeting the demand for French-speaking teachers, which leads recruiting drives across the country in addition to to some imperfect scenarios in classrooms.

“There continues to be challenges in recruiting French immersion teachers,” according to Chilliwack School District principal of human resources Diego Testa.

“There is a limited pool being produced out of the universities locally. All districts are recruiting further afield.”

Testa said his team has been to job fairs across the country in Ottawa, Toronto and other universities in Ontario.

In the spring, the Ministry of Education even went as far as Europe to recruit.

• READ MORE: Education minister off to Europe to recruit French teachers

And while there have been challenges, Testa maintains almost all positions in his district are filled properly at this time. There are a couple of circumstances causing short-term problems, he conceded, one involving a teacher being held to a 30-day notice from leaving another school district. She won’t be in town until October.

In other situations they’ve had to double up with two teachers in a high school class when, for example, there is an English-speaking social studies teacher being helped with the language by a primary level French teacher.

“We do have temporary measures in some of these circumstances,” Testa said.

But some parents are already reporting situations where their children in late French immersion high school classes being taught by English-only speaking teachers.

Meghan Reid said her daughter is in Grade 9 at Sardis secondary and has a long-term English-only substitute teaching French and Science French, with another English-only substitute teaching social studies French.

She’s been told by the principal that the shortage of teachers mean there is no resolution on the horizon.

“They do not expect to get French substitutes due to the French teacher shortage,” she said.

All this points to the ever-increasing demand for French immersion, according to the Canadian Parents for French B.C. and Yukon.

“French immersion is a well-established and highly regarded program,” said Diane Tijman, president of Canadian Parents for French BC & Yukon. “Designed to help students become functionally bilingual by the time they graduate, the program’s effects are very real, empowering young people and opening doors in so many different ways.”

While overall enrolment in schools is actually decreasing across B.C. (from 606,383 total enrolment in 2004/2005 to 563,247 in 2017/2018) French immersion enrolment is on the rise.

Last school year, 53,487 students were enrolled in French immersion across B.C., or 9.5 per cent of the entire student body. That’s an increase of 50 per cent since 2004/2005.

“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,” the CPF said in a press release.

According to Stats Canada, the CPF release stated, Canadians who speak both French and English earn, on average, 10 per cent more, and have a lower unemployment rate, compared to Canadians who only speak one of the two official languages.

“As well, there are cognitive developmental benefits of learning an additional language, such as: stronger listening skills, improved focus and concentration, increased ability to understand complex problems and higher tolerance, insight and understanding of other cultures.”

As for human resources departments across B.C., they are left scrambling to market their respective communities to draw French immersion teachers from across Canada.

Testa is optimistic but he believes the pressure may remain for a number of years as universities are not able to be as nimble as is needed to meet demand.

“Things are certainly getting better,” he said. “Promoting that there’s steady work available in B.C. and the Fraser Valley and Chilliwack has helped us and is helping us to be more successful.

“I don’t know what’s on the horizon. I feel like we are turning the corner on some of the shortages in general, but some of these specialty area will continue to be a challenge for the next little bit.”

• RELATED: No more teacher shortage, B.C. education ministry says


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

That’s Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19, 2021 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
First Houston vaccinations take place

Long term care residents, health care workers on list

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read