While the whole of B.C. has the highest proportion of French immersion (FI) public school students in history, not all areas of the province have such thriving FI programs.
According to Jason Howe, the executive director of Canadian Parents for French – British Columbia and Yukon Branch, the Lower Mainland is currently experiencing the lowest number of FI students it’s had since 2015.
In the current academic year, there are 28,368 FI students in the Lower Mainland, which is a 1.18 per cent decrease from the previous year, and a 3.63 per cent decrease from the 2015-16 term.
Even the total percentage of FI students is down, with only 8.89 per cent of Lower Mainland public school students being enrolled in FI programs, while the total was over nine per cent in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, School District 42 for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows has a thriving FI program.
Currently, SD42 has 1,650 FI students, which has increased by 0.73 per cent from last year. Compared to 2015-16, this is a 5.16 per cent jump in FI students.
Irena Pochop, SD42 senior manager of communications, explained that their FI programs have remained a steadily popular option for quite some time.
“This is a popular program of choice in the district, and we do have wait lists at some elementary schools, but we are able to accommodate all requests as we do still have available spaces in other schools,” she said.
One area where the district hasn’t seen such a steady increase in FI popularity is with kindergarten students, where their total FI attendance fell from 169 students in 2019 to 152 students in 2021.
“We did see a small dip in French immersion enrolment numbers at the kindergarten level for the 2020/21 school year, but we believe this small decline is pandemic-related, since this program requires an immersive experience that is not easily replicated in remote learning,” Pochop said.
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