The Sooke School District led the province in French immersion enrolment for 2017-18, with 12.5 per cent of the student population involved in the program, compared to the provincial average of 9.5 per cent.
Those numbers translate into a total of 1,385 students in the Sooke School District enrolled in French immersion last year.
Statistics released earlier this month by the Canadian Parents For French B.C. & Yukon chapter indicate B.C. led the country in French immersion for 2017-18, with 53,487 students enrolled.
The popularity of the program teaches students to be functionally bilingual has some school districts scrambling to fill enough teaching positions to handle the demand, that’s not the case in the Sooke School District, where French immersion has been a staple since the mid-1990s.
Stephanie Hedley-Smith, associate superintendent for the school district, said a lot of work has gone into ensuring there are enough teachers to meet the demand.
French Immersion continues to be a popular choice for students in @SD62_Sooke. Thank you to staff and @CPFSooke for the collaborative effort to grow, support and sustain this program. Look forward to seeing this program grow even more in future new #SD62 schools #bced https://t.co/thwOOIFG5s
— Ravi Parmar (@rparmarSD62) September 4, 2018
“We worked very hard to recruit teachers and we’re in very good shape,” she said.
District representatives went to Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto last year to recruit teachers for the program.
“We’re working to create opportunities for French immersion teachers to stay here,” Hedley-Smith said.
The district is also working to add more French immersion and other teachers to its on-call list, she added.
Hedley-Smith said she’s “absolutely thrilled” with the statistics.
“It speaks to how popular the program is and shows parents would like choice, not just with French immersion, but other learning opportunities as well,” she said, citing sports and dance academy programs offered at middle and high schools in the district, as well as a nature kindergarten program as examples.
According to Statistics Canada, people who speak French and English earn 10 per cent more on average and have a lower unemployment rate than Canadians who only speak one of the two official languages.
There are also cognitive developmental benefits from learning another language, including stronger listening skills, improved focus and concentration.
Studies also note an increased ability to understand complex problems, and higher tolerance, insight and understanding of other cultures.