French Immersion programs in the B.C are celebrating 50 years this week. The first French immersion classes started in the1968-1969 school year in Coquitlam with a class of 32 kindergarten students. Now nearly 54 thousand students are enrolled across the province making up 9.5 percent of the B.C public school population.
Here in Merritt, Ecole Collettville Elementary Principal Rene Aubin told Q101, French Immersion plays a large roll not only in the lives of its students but the community.
“The fact that we have students that becoming culturally sensitive, multi-lingual, flexible, creative, critical thinkers, able to adapt to new situations,” said Aubin. “I think that’s a community that Merritt wants and believes in and is striving for with everybody.”
Aubin also mentioned the important role the program plays for his students.
“It’s part of being Canadian. It’s a chance to participate in being Canadian, being part of that Canadian heritage,” said Aubin. “Learning about new cultures also allows people to have greater sensitivity and understand of other cultural needs and practices.”
Aubin also believes the programs can act as a draw for people considering a move to Merritt.
Along with the celebrations, the Province is attempting to draw more French teachers to B.C with several initiatives.
- Adding 74 teacher education seats at post-secondary institutions, with 37 student teachers doing their practicum in classrooms this year.
- International partnerships that have meant 17 teachers from France have been certified to work in B.C., and an additional 31 applications from France and Belgium are awaiting evaluation for certification.
- Scholarship awards of $3,000 each for prospective teachers from France who want to work in B.C.
- Bursaries of up to $1,600 to students enrolled in French teacher education programs in B.C., with funding from the Government of Canada.
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