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Don't Drive Ontario Families Out Of Public Education

There’s An Argument To Be Made Against French Immersion



    • Wrote this before issue was picked up by Maclean's and others. 

    Greg Cawsey 
  • Tue Dec 07 2010
  •  

There’s an argument to be made against French immersion

One of the tougher decisions my wife and I have had to make as parents involved the option of enrolling our kids in French immersion. Our school board offers the program at the junior kindergarten level and, therefore, this important decision must be made when a child attains the ripe old age of four.

Many people were shocked that my wife and I, both of us strong believers in education, opted against putting our kids in the program.

The Upper Grand District School Board has done a great job in promoting its French immersion stream, although it seems that the high enrolment in the program has presented challenges in delivering the curriculum.

I’m not surprised at the interest. There’s a wide sense that parents do their child a disservice if they are not enrolled in French immersion.

But some parents fail to consider, or even encounter, the case for why a rational parent might opt out. So, for all those who face this decision, I offer a case against French immersion.

Much of the current research about education suggests the key person in determining success in child’s learning development is the teacher.

Everybody wants the best teachers for their child. In my opinion, the chances of getting the best teachers are not in French immersion. Think about it. When the school board sets out to hire teachers, how many qualified French teachers are available to apply for a job in southwestern Ontario. If I was a principal I would rather select my best teacher candidates from a pool of a 100, than two. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some talented French immersion teachers out there. There are. But the competition for those jobs is less than what it is for ones in the English-language stream. This teacher supply challenge will only grow as French immersion programs increase in popularity.

I’m also concerned about when the French immersion decision must be made. At age four, I have no clue of my kid’s academic abilities.

I have no idea if they will be the next Einstein or will struggle with learning disabilities. If, for whatever reason, they do struggle in French immersion will they be shown the door? If so, what will this do to a child’s self-esteem? Any love of school and learning will surely be diminished if not destroyed. If your kid makes it, great for you. If not, good luck. As a parent, I am not ready to gamble in this way on my kids’ academic future.

For me, education enrichment and development is as much as what goes on outside the classroom as what goes on in it. I want my kids to learn and play with children, from all walks of life, backgrounds, faiths and abilities. I believe there’s more of this diversity outside the French immersion program.

Many argue in the merits of being bilingual, and who could argue? I hope my kids are bilingual adults in whatever language that will serve their interest. But just because a parent passes on French immersion doesn’t mean their child won’t learn French. It’s part of the curriculum. They can take as many French courses as they want in high school — along with a host of other available language courses. I have plenty of family and friends who weren’t in French immersion, but are bilingual.

There is also the matter of choice. Remaining in French immersion means less choice in courses and options than for regular-stream students. I want my kids to be able to follow their interests and explore the widest available variety topics while in school.

I’ve heard some parents say they chose French immersion because they regard it as an elitist program — a sort of private school within the public system. Well, I’m not sure how elitist a program can be when everyone is doing it?

There’s an environmental basis for my decision. Our kids walk to the local community school, while the French immersion kids are bused all over God’s green earth to whatever school can accommodate them. Our board has even displaced some kids from their local school to send them elsewhere, in order to bus in French immsersion students from outside the area. What a waste of money, and a source of excess pollution.

From an environmental perspective, supporting French immersion makes as much sense as living within walking distance of your job then hopping in the car each day and driving around Guelph a few times before finally heading to work.

If someone has chosen the French immersion option, I mean no animosity. We all want what’s best for our kids. I wrote this to add to the French immersion debate. I believe it’s become too one-sided.

Ideally, I would like the province to embed French within the regular curriculum so that any child graduating from an Ontario high school would be bilingual. That would require time, additional resources, and, of course, money.


Home > Opinion > There’s an argument to be made against French immersion
    There’s an argument to be made against French immersion

One of the tougher decisions my wife and I have had to make as parents involved the option of enrolling our kids in French immersion. Our school board offers the program at the junior kindergarten level and, therefore, this important decision must be made when a child attains the ripe old age of four.

Many people were shocked that my wife and I, both of us strong believers in education, opted against putting our kids in the program.

The Upper Grand District School Board has done a great job in promoting its French immersion stream, although it seems that the high enrolment in the program has presented challenges in delivering the curriculum.

I’m not surprised at the interest. There’s a wide sense that parents do their child a disservice if they are not enrolled in French immersion.

But some parents fail to consider, or even encounter, the case for why a rational parent might opt out. So, for all those who face this decision, I offer a case against French immersion.

Much of the current research about education suggests the key person in determining success in child’s learning development is the teacher.

Everybody wants the best teachers for their child. In my opinion, the chances of getting the best teachers are not in French immersion. Think about it. When the school board sets out to hire teachers, how many qualified French teachers are available to apply for a job in southwestern Ontario. If I was a principal I would rather select my best teacher candidates from a pool of a 100, than two. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some talented French immersion teachers out there. There are. But the competition for those jobs is less than what it is for ones in the English-language stream. This teacher supply challenge will only grow as French immersion programs increase in popularity.

I’m also concerned about when the French immersion decision must be made. At age four, I have no clue of my kid’s academic abilities.

I have no idea if they will be the next Einstein or will struggle with learning disabilities. If, for whatever reason, they do struggle in French immersion will they be shown the door? If so, what will this do to a child’s self-esteem? Any love of school and learning will surely be diminished if not destroyed. If your kid makes it, great for you. If not, good luck. As a parent, I am not ready to gamble in this way on my kids’ academic future.

For me, education enrichment and development is as much as what goes on outside the classroom as what goes on in it. I want my kids to learn and play with children, from all walks of life, backgrounds, faiths and abilities. I believe there’s more of this diversity outside the French immersion program.

Many argue in the merits of being bilingual, and who could argue? I hope my kids are bilingual adults in whatever language that will serve their interest. But just because a parent passes on French immersion doesn’t mean their child won’t learn French. It’s part of the curriculum. They can take as many French courses as they want in high school — along with a host of other available language courses. I have plenty of family and friends who weren’t in French immersion, but are bilingual.

There is also the matter of choice. Remaining in French immersion means less choice in courses and options than for regular-stream students. I want my kids to be able to follow their interests and explore the widest available variety topics while in school.

I’ve heard some parents say they chose French immersion because they regard it as an elitist program — a sort of private school within the public system. Well, I’m not sure how elitist a program can be when everyone is doing it?

There’s an environmental basis for my decision. Our kids walk to the local community school, while the French immersion kids are bused all over God’s green earth to whatever school can accommodate them. Our board has even displaced some kids from their local school to send them elsewhere, in order to bus in French immsersion students from outside the area. What a waste of money, and a source of excess pollution.

From an environmental perspective, supporting French immersion makes as much sense as living within walking distance of your job then hopping in the car each day and driving around Guelph a few times before finally heading to work.

If someone has chosen the French immersion option, I mean no animosity. We all want what’s best for our kids. I wrote this to add to the French immersion debate. I believe it’s become too one-sided.

Ideally, I would like the province to embed French within the regular curriculum so that any child graduating from an Ontario high school would be bilingual. That would require time, additional resources, and, of course, money.

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