March 24, 2016 2:57 pm

Why do parents and their children choose French immersion?

Students in the Louis Riel School Division could be forced to change schools to make space for more French immersion classes next year.

Global News

EDMONTON – Demand from parents wanting to enrol their children in French immersion programs is on the rise in Edmonton.

French immersion enrolment climbed 15 per cent in Edmonton Catholic Schools and 17 per cent in Edmonton Public Schools from 2010 to 2015.

READ MORE: Demand rising for French immersion programs in Edmonton schools

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Part of the reason for the increase is the growing demand across the board in the city, but it’s still worth noting the reasons parents want their kids to take French immersion.

Future employment opportunities

“I just feel like it’s an amazing program to be in. It’s really cool because when I go to get a job when I’m older, I have that background of both languages,” student Kianna Ly said.

The Monseigneur William Irwin School student is right. There are positions across Canada that demand applicants can speak both French and English. For example, the federal government of Canada is the largest employer in the country and the largest employer of bilingual workers.

A 2006 poll by Decima revealed nearly 70 per cent of Canadians felt bilingualism improved employment opportunities.

According to a study by the Association for Canadian Studies, Canadians who speak both languages earn about 10 per cent more than those who only speak English.

Better education results 

There is a perception that French immersion students outperform non-immersion students. While there is debate about this issue, there are studies that defend the belief.

A 2000 Statistics Canada study showed French immersion students performed “significantly better” in reading than other students in every province except in Manitoba where scores were equal.

One of the factors in difference in performance detailed in the study was that parents of immersion students were from higher socio-economic backgrounds and were more likely to have post-secondary education.

Another factor highlighted in the study was that schools may screen students to ensure their readiness for immersion programs. Students who have less developed language skills may be less likely to enter immersion programs.

A 2002 review concluded “The effect of learning a second language on first language skills has been virtually positive in all studies.” The researcher added the loss of instructional time in English in favour of a second language hasn’t shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language.

More “worldly” 

“For us, having a second language – hopefully a third down the road – is a big part of that. We wanted to make sure she had that opportunity,” parent Heather Mackenzie said.

MacKenzie wants her daughter to take French immersion to help her become a global citizen, and the Edmonton mother could be on to something.

According to the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers and Calgary Board of Education, French is the second most frequently-learned second or foreign language behind English. It’s the official language of more than 33 countries and is the only language other than English to be spoken on five continents.

It means it opens opportunities for bilingual Canadians seeking employment outside of the country.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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