Demand for French immersion classes is at an all-time high in B.C. and the provincial government moved to fill the demand gap for teachers with an announcement on Tuesday.
Education Minister Rob Fleming was at Simon Fraser University (SFU) to announce 74 new French teacher education seats, half funded by the province, half funded in partnership with the federal government.
“Demand is growing and yet for too long parents have suffered through wait lists to have their children placed in French-language programs,” Fleming said. “That’s why I am so pleased this year’s student French teacher education seats are full. It is critical we continue investing to meet current and future demands, so we can provide the services families in B.C. want.”
Fleming joined officials from SFU, the University of British Columbia (UBC), the French Consulate and the Canadian Parents for French to meet this year’s cohort of student French teachers, seeing first-hand how recruitment efforts are working.
There are 17 new French-language training spaces at SFU and 20 at UBC funded by the province in partnership with the Government of Canada, as part of ongoing recruitment and retention strategies.
While at SFU, Fleming also announced that the Ministry of Education will fund 37 more French teacher education seats for the 2019-20 school year, another 17 for SFU and 20 for UBC Okanagan, for a total of 74 new French teacher education seats.
“Many parents are unable to find spaces in French-language programs for their children, in part due to a shortage of specialized teachers in our province,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “Investing in even more targeted teacher education seats will help tackle the recruitment of more teachers for French programs in the K-12 sector. Great teachers will help shape the minds of our future leaders, innovators and creators.”
In February 2018, the province also invested $180,000 in partnership with the Government of Canada to support SFU and UBC to implement initiatives to address French teacher recruitment and retention challenges.
“The booming popularity of French programs has been a wonderful development for our education system,” said Glyn Lewis of Canadian Parents for French, B.C. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been graduating, or retaining, enough French teachers to keep up with the demand. We estimate we are short somewhere between 100 and 150 French teachers in communities all around the province right now. We applaud the B.C. Ministry of Education for rolling out concrete initiatives to help meet our short-term and long-term needs.”