Lottery losses have B.C. parents hoping for French teachers from Europe

Minister’s trip to France earlier this month was an “aggressive” effort to recruit French teachers

Rahel Staeheli plays with her daughter Milani Staeheli-Hildebrand, 5, at a playground near their home in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday April 11, 2018. Staeheli has been trying to register her daughter, who begins kindergarten in September, for French immersion school without success due to a shortage of French immersion teachers in the province. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia parents who have lost the chance to get their children into French immersion through a lottery system are hoping the education minister’s teacher-recruitment trip to Europe will create more opportunities for early bilingualism.

Rahel Staeheli said she registered her daughter Milani for French immersion at two schools but learned in February that she didn’t get a kindergarten spot for September, landing her at 53rd and 57th place on wait lists.

Staeheli has since registered Milani at a third school further from their home in Surrey, only to see her at the bottom of another wait list.

“We contacted the school board after we found out our wait-list numbers and they basically said, ‘You’re never getting in,’ ” she said.

“We’re really disappointed to learn that there isn’t necessarily an equal opportunity for all children to learn our second national language,” said Staeheli, adding her father speaks English, French, Swiss, Spanish and Swiss German, and she wants her children to at least be conversant in Canada’s two official languages.

She said her daughter may have to wait to get into early French immersion in Grade 1, but fears she may again lose out on a spot because children with siblings already in the program are given priority.

READ: Education minister off to Europe to recruit French teachers

That would have Milani and students in a similar situation waiting to enter “late” French immersion in Grade 6, when they would have to change schools if the program isn’t offered at their school. Forty-eight of 60 school districts offer the program.

Parents in various provinces share Staeheli’s frustration, but advocates in B.C. say demand for French immersion enrolment is particularly strong in their province, where a Supreme Court of Canada decision in November 2016 restored small class sizes, requiring more teachers in all subjects.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said nearly 3,700 teachers overall have been hired in the last year and the hiring process continues, but demand for French immersion far outstrips the number of available teachers, leaving the province competing for educators with other jurisdictions in Canada.

Fleming said 37 of 100 new seats added to education faculties at British Columbia universities are specifically for those intending to teach French immersion, which is taught to almost 10 per cent of B.C.’s public school population.

His trip to France and Belgium earlier this month was an “aggressive” effort to recruit French teachers, he said, adding the province made assurances about removing barriers to temporary work permits and citizenship, along with faster accreditation of education degrees and teacher licensing.

READ: Teacher recruitment in France applauded by Surrey parents, trustees

“I think what this trip was really about was opening doors of recruitment, to let the governments of France and Belgium know that we’re serious about the teaching opportunities that exist here in B.C., which means promoting B.C. as a vibrant, dynamic part of Canada that is not Ontario and Quebec, which they’re most familiar with,” Fleming said.

“Ninety-five per cent of the business they currently do is with Quebec. They are not aware that the anglophone provinces have a significant and growing interest in French-language education,” he said, adding B.C. would pay for teachers’ relocation costs and provide scholarships for those wanting to complete their training at the province’s French-teacher education institutions.

Glyn Lewis, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon chapter of Canadian Parents for French, said the organization noted a worsening teacher-supply problem four years ago and issued a report, but received little response from either provincial or federal governments.

“Last spring when the Vancouver School Board cut a quarter of its program and turned all those families away because they couldn’t find teachers I went to the (provincial) government and said, ‘We told you this was going to happen.’ “

A lottery system for French-immersion registration was introduced by some school districts to replace long pre-registration lineups outside schools, where parents often camped out over several days.

“Families are still being turned away, whether through a lottery system, a campout or a wait-list system at 20 of 48 school districts,” Lewis said.

Heritage Canada spokesman Simon Ross said the department has hiked funding for various French-language programs, including $31 million to recruit more immersion and French-as-a–second-language teachers as part of a plan to increase the bilingualism rate of English speakers outside Quebec.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Aldergrove Mall site becomes election issue

Letter from developers supporting current Township council sparks flurry of responses

Fort Langley to hold all-candidates meeting

A forum in the village includes Township of Langley school trustee, council, and mayoral candidates.

By-invitation meet-and-greet for Township council candidates draws flak

Organizer rejects complaint it amounted to a slate, calls suggestion a ‘conspiracy theory.’

UPDATED: Underground power fault blacks out part of downtown Langley

Electricity was out for a major commercial area.

Langley rower captures silver at world championships

The women’s eight makes a come-from-behind charge for back to back world championship medals

Video: Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as one would expect of the team that gave us the “Broad Street Bullies,” he’s far from cuddly.

Trudeau looks to restart Canada’s UN charm offensive in New York City

Freeland says the question of job retraining in the 21st century — and the uncertainty that surrounds it — is the federal government’s central preoccupation.

Calgary mayor seeks person who leaked details of closed-door Olympic meeting

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he will ask the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate a leak of details from an in-camera council meeting.

South Surrey boy, 10, collects socks to help kids in need

Ronin Bulmer, 10, is going door-to-door asking for donations

B.C. MP Cannings spared brunt of Ottawa tornadoes

MP Richard Cannings was spared the impact of the tornadoes that hit the Ottawa region

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

B.C. pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

Seattle City Council unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Most Read