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New funding will help hire more French teachers in B.C.

Funding was announced Wednesday that will help B.C. hire about 200 French teachers it needs, including recruiting teachers from Belgium and France. A total of $2.
Federal Minister of Official Languages Melanie Joly, centre, and B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming arrive at Ecole Quadra Elementary in Victoria on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

Funding was announced Wednesday that will help B.C. hire about 200 French teachers it needs, including recruiting teachers from Belgium and France.

A total of $2.2 million for teacher recruitment in the province was announced by federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Mélanie Joly, along with $300,000 from the province through Education Minister Rob Fleming.

The announcement was made at Quadra Elementary, one of the French immersion schools in the Greater Victoria School District.

“We’re going to continue to move quickly with the recruitment effort, both at home and abroad,” said Fleming, noting the two levels of government have funded 74 teacher-education-program seats, along with bursaries and scholarships.

“We’re helping new working teachers with career programs to alleviate some of the costs of becoming a professional teacher, and we directly engaged the ministries of education in Belgium and France.”

That consultation with Belgium and France has led to a quadrupling of applications from those countries to teach in B.C. in just a few years, Fleming said.

Andrea Calder, who has a daughter in Grade 11 French immersion at Stelly’s Secondary, applauded the new funds.

“French immersion is quite strong, particularly here in Saanich and Victoria and Esquimalt, and obviously in other regions in British Columbia,” she said. “And to ensure its success it’s wonderful that they’re recruiting teachers and that there’s money being put into it.”

The Greater Victoria School District isn’t able to accommodate all of the parents wanting to get their children into French immersion, but as of 2015-16, 20 per cent of the district’s 19,000 students were in French immersion programs — more than double the provincial average of 9.5 per cent for that period.

Joly said the need for French teachers is widespread, with parents lining up to register their children for French language classes.

“Right now, we know that there’s a shortage of French teachers all across the country, and in particular here in B.C.,” she said.

“And that’s why we decided to tackle this issue head-on.

“Basically we know that there’s capacity out there and we need to provide you with the right tools.”

Overall, the federal government is dedicating $62 million over four years toward the effort to hire more French teachers throughout the country.

Joly told Quadra French immersion students they are important to Canada’s strength as a bilingual nation.

“Across the country, there are young people that are learning how to live and have fun and actually be able to laugh and thrive in our two official languages.”

Fleming said the demand for French-immersion programs, which have been available for 45 years in B.C., has soared over the past 10 to 15 years.

Glyn Lewis, executive director of the B.C./Yukon division of Canadian Parents for French, applauded the additional funding, and said learning French is beneficial to students.

“What an incredible gift French is, not only in terms of the economic opportunities that you’re going to have and the social opportunities that you’re going to have, but also the power in stepping into the shoes of someone else and seeing the world through someone else’s perspective.”

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