Mar 14, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

More Canadian families are showing interest in French immersion programs, leading to a new challenge for the country’s schools: a shortage of teachers in this field. The Globe and Mail recently reported on the phenomenon; here’s a closer look.

Increasing Demand

According to figures from Statistics Canada, enrollments in French immersion programs skyrocketed by 41 percent in the 10 year period between 2004-05 and 2014-15. Championed by Pierre Elliot Trudeau during his 16 years as prime minister decades ago, the preponderance of French immersion is now considered part of his legacy. However, this rising demand has also triggered rising demand for teachers, prompting school districts to take extraordinary measures to fill vacancies, often still coming up short.

Filling the Shortfall

While an English language teaching position draws hundreds of applicants, applications for French immersion positions are slim. This is good news for
French speaking potential teachers. As John Cuddle, manager in human resources at London, Ontario’s Thames Valley School District Board, told The Globe and Mail, “If you’re fluent in French and can teach French immersion, you can pick where you want to work.” Echoed Kevin Fadum, district principal of human resources in Surrey, “If we get a French-immersion application, it goes directly into my hands within minutes of receiving it. There’s no waiting around on that.”

Additionally, while it takes a third of English language teachers as long as four years to secure full employment, a third of French language teachers are fully employed within a year of getting their degrees.

However, the “chronic” problem is also leading to concerns about teacher qualifications and teaching quality as schools struggle to fill positions. As a result, says Cuddle, “If we were in manufacturing I would tell our salespeople to stop selling immersion. We are running very low on inventory.”

Read more about studying in Canada.

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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