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There are many reasons to support bilingualism…
Our two official languages are a fundamental element of the Canadian identity; English and French are part of our society, our culture and our history; both languages are also a tool of inclusion as it allows new immigrants to fully integrate into their new country. And the list goes on!
A vast majority of Canadians support official bilingualism and the Official Languages Act, as published recently in a survey by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. In Ontario, year after year, parents look to enrol their children in a French as a second language (FSL) program. French immersion, for instance, is proven to be a successful path to bilingualism. Enrolment in this program has been growing steadily at an average of 5.3 per cent per year.
Unfortunately, not all students in Ontario are guaranteed a spot in French immersion or other FSL programs, as there are not as many available spaces as there is demand. Organizations like Canadian Parents for French Ontario (CPF) have been advocating and working for more than 40 years for universal access to ensure every Canadian has the opportunity to learn French and has access to the FSL program that meets their needs and goals.
As of the 2020–2021 school year, there are more than one million students enrolled in a FSL program in Ontario. About a quarter of those students—approximately 250,000—are enrolled in French immersion. This program, delivered by English school boards, provides the highest intensity of French and is recognized for yielding strong test results for Grade 12 students opting to measure their language proficiency with a certified test.
Upon graduation, these bilingual Canadians contribute to the flourishing of the French language at a time when it is needed the most. Whether it is by continuing their studies in French, by using it at work or by connecting with Francophone native speakers, their role is key in ensuring the vitality of French and the growth of bilingualism in Ontario and the country.
Could you imagine how much more impactful this would be if every student in Canada were guaranteed a spot in the FSL program of their choice? There are many issues that make this harder to achieve, for example right now there is a shortage of teachers of French as a second language. For schools and governments to offer more spaces to students, they need more qualified teachers. Luckily, both the provincial and federal governments have allocated funds to address this shortage and support the recruitment and retention of FSL teachers.
CPF is also doing its part to address this issue. CPF Ontario launched last year SayOui.ca, a website to increase awareness of the demand for French teachers. This website is part of a campaign to encourage secondary and undergraduate university students to explore a career in teaching. At the national level, to get to the heart of why anyone might consider a teaching position, CPF is leading an overarching public awareness campaign called My Raison d’Être. Its purpose is to increase the visibility of the profession, as teaching is about making a difference and impacting the lives of students for the better, and teaching in French is no different.
When parents enrol their children in a FSL program, they are providing them with tools for better opportunities and a chance for success. Additionally, they are also contributing to bilingualism in the country, making Canada better. Learn more about Canadian Parents for French, French as a second language education and more by visiting cpf.ca.
We are a national network of parents, volunteers, and advocates dedicated to the promotion and creation of French-second-language learning opportunities for young Canadians.