B.C. announces more French-language teacher training seats at SFU

September 21, 2018

B.C. will fund an additional 37 French-language teachers’ training seats at post-secondary institutions to alleviate the province’s critical shortage, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced at Simon Fraser University on Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Over the past 10 years, the number of francophone students has increased by 41 per cent and the number of French immersion students has increased by 26 per cent. This growing demand, partnered with a shortage of specialized French teachers, means students across the province have languished on waitlists as they wait for spots in French-language programs.

Of the 37 new seats for the 2019-20 school year, 17 will be allocated to SFU and 20 to UBC Okanagan.

“There is an incredible demand for French immersion in our school system,” said Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, during a press conference held at SFU’s Diamond Alumni Centre on Tuesday morning.

“A lot has changed in French education—years ago, back in my day, French teachers only needed to know a minimum of the language… my French teacher in school was a lovely woman named Madam Matts—who had the thickest Yorkshire accent. Needless to say my French isn’t the best.”

Joining Fleming for the announcement were Kris Magnusson, SFU’s dean of education, Gino LeBlanc, director of SFU’s Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs and Glyn Lewis from Canadian Parents for French, B.C.

Dozens of future French teachers, currently studying at SFU, also attended the event, which featured a video call with SFU students currently studying at the Université de Tours in France.

Calling it a “magnificent problem” to have, Fleming, who has two children enrolled in French immersion in Victoria, said the uptick in demand for French-language education is a healthy reflection of the modern Canadian identity.

“It is critical we continue investing to meet current and future demands, so we can provide the services families in B.C. want.”

The province’s announcement of the 37 new seats next year is on top of an equal number that opened this fall. It means the government is now funding a total of 74 new French-teacher education seats.

“These new investments support SFU’s 15-year commitment to teacher education in French in B.C.,” said Magnusson. “The additional funding permits the faculty of education to increase enrolment, to train and to retain qualified French teachers through bursaries, innovative delivery and rich and relevant professional development in French for teachers in practice.”