All three local school boards see a bright future for French Immersion programming in Dufferin County

December 7, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The future of French language education in Dufferin, as seen by all three school boards operating in the county, is bright. Enrolments are up and increasing and the boards are eager to accommodate everyone wishing to take advantage of French language studies.

Like all other school boards in Ontario, the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) supports all branches of French study in accordance with the Ministry of Education’s Framework for FSL (French as a Second Language) in Ontario Schools. It’s a directive that highlights the importance of French for all students.

However, for 2017, the UGDSB will specifically focus on refining implementation of the revised French Curriculum to assure that both the French Immersion and the Core French classes will continue to offer real-life, language, learning experiences.

Also, the Board is supporting senior French Immersion (FI) and Core French students by steadily increasing the numbers of those that “challenge the DELF” (Diplome d’étude en langue francaise), which is an internationally recognized diploma that identifies their competency in French.

DELF certification helps successful students by providing them with an internationally recognized credential regardless of their post graduation choices, be they in the workplace, further schooling, or an apprenticeship program.

Bruce Campbell, the Communications and Community Relations General Manager for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCSB), stressed that all regional programs of choice, including French Immersion, are reviewed annually.

The reviews seek community input and look to other community data to better assess whether the expansion of programs is feasible. Coupled with their ongoing commitment to providing a quality learning experience, the DPCDSB feels strongly that these reviews assure that they can stay “ahead of the curve” in French language studies.

In their efforts to meet the challenges of the future, Claire Francoeur of the Conseil scholaires Viamonde (CsV), outlined their plans to embrace 10 new schools between 2016 and 2020 in an effort to bring more schools closer to families. They will begin with two new schools in 2017, with the rest to follow over the ensuing years as the demand dictates.

One of the continuing challenges for all the school boards in Ontario is the recruitment of qualified French language teaching and support staff. The DPCDSB’s Human Resources Department continues to prioritize recruitment of French qualified staff throughout their schools as well as sharing their concerns in this matter with staff at the Ministry of Education.

To address some of the pressures they are experiencing, the UGDSB created a French Review Committee. Its role is to develop and evaluate options, to help mitigate and manage issues and to ensure the sustainability of English and French Immersion track programs. Comprising parents, trustees, principals, teachers, board staff, superintendents of education and union presidents, the committee reflects the geographic diversity of the Board. This committee has met several times, reviewing and analyzing data on enrolment trends, funding, staff hiring, instructional strategies and more.

In May, trustees approved a number of recommendations regarding Human Resources (HR) recruitment practices as they relate  to FSL teachers and support staff, as well as providing recommendations related to managing the growth of the FI program. These included making Junior Kindergarten (JK) the only entry point to FI beginning in 2017 and placing a cap on JK enrolment at each of the FI sites. This latter move was done to manage the number of students entering the program. Further, staff were instructed to produce a fair and transparent method for student entry into the program. To aid in this process, Board staff are hosting a number of JK Registration information nights, open to all families in the district.

When asked for a response to the question as to why they continue offer French language education at all, the Boards expressed a variety of responses beyond the obvious answer that French is an “official language”. The DPCDSB pointed out that FI is an important program of choice, which supports Canada’s bilingual identity and forms an integral part of the spectrum of services that the Board strives to provide.

Meanwhile, the UGDSB stated their belief that FI falls in line with their goal of providing a range of quality programs and learning opportunities throughout the elementary and secondary school systems. For them, FI Instruction is for all students, providing “significant cognitive and academic benefits for students”. It creates plurilingual, competence, promotes bilingualism, encourages an understanding of different cultures and will improve and expand employment opportunities.

CsV, being a totally French language Board, had a somewhat different approach to the question. As their schools are established within the English speaking communities, they generally don’t experience this reaction to their programs since all their students are totally fluent in both official languages. From their perspective it is a moot point. Although they have experienced the occasional complaint from time to time, they have never really had their approach to the French language come under adverse scrutiny.

At this time, the DPCDSB does not have plans to open any French Immersion centres, such as those operated by the UGDSB in Guelph. The Upper Grand board determines their type of school based upon the needs of the community, the space available and the long term enrolment forecasts. Thus,  given these parameters, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that further FI Centres may be implemented by the Board in future years.

Another consideration to be addressed is the addition of further secondary schools in order to reduce the current busing times of the students. For example, the only secondary schools for students in the Orangeville area are located in either Erin, for the UGDSB, or Brampton, for students of the DPCDSB. At this time, the Catholic board does not have plans for another secondary school, while the Upper Grand Board has directed staff to continue the work of the aforementioned French Review Committee by examining the secondary French as a Second Language programming, beginning this month. Future Program-related needs, if any, will be informed by that committee’s efforts.

Such is not the case for the Conseil scholaire Viamonde. They plan to have another secondary school within the next 10 years, depending on demand, in the Waterloo area and a new high school is currently being established in Hamilton.

Finally, as they look to the future, all three boards are planning to implement new initiatives and programs for their students and schools. For 2017, the CsV will be bringing new excellence programs into being to help elevate student grades. They are also going to be teaching Spanish in grades 7 and 8, thus making their students trilingual. As with English and French, Spanish will be taught as a native tongue.

The DPCDSB has plans to continue the review of all of their programs of choice, monitoring both interest and responses, from their communities so as to ensure that all programs ultimately meet the identified needs of those communities.

The UGDSB has similar plans afoot. Acting on the recommendations of the trustees and based on the work of the French Review Committee, they will request that the Ontario Public School Boards Association   advocate on behalf of the English boards for a comprehensive, provincial review of FSL instructional opportunities, with emphasis on qualified French teacher availability and current funding levels. The intent being to alleviate the significant accommodation pressures and to more accurately reflect the current reality of parent/guardian choices in an increasingly plurilingual society.

It is apparent that French language education, in all its current forms, is alive and growing in Dufferin. Whether one choses to have their children enrolled in a French Immersion program, with one of the English boards, or attend the French language schools of the Conseil scholaire Viamonde, the opportunity for a vigorous and exciting French learning experience is right on your doorstep.


Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.