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SFU helps British Columbia retain French-language teachers

March 07, 2023
Gino LeBlanc, director of the OFFA, speaks at a media event Friday, March 3, 2023.

Simon Fraser University will play a critical role in supporting French-language teachers in British Columbia, thanks to new funding announced by the federal and provincial governments.

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Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the Minister of Official Languages, and B.C. Minister of Education Rachna Singh were at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue Friday, March 3 to announce more than $13.5 million in funding to help train, recruit and retain French teachers in the province.

As part of that funding, SFU will receive $513,000 to increase access to a network of professional development experts by providing workshops and resources for teachers in both French minority language and French second language contexts. SFU has also implemented a graduate program in educational leadership and is co-ordinating a provincial network of school administrations, with the goal of retaining French-language teachers.

“The work of teachers is crucial as they play an essential role in the lives our of children and future generations. That’s why we believe it is so important to support them,” said Petitpas Taylor. “More than ever, the federal government aims to train, recruit, and retain French teachers, and this funding announcement will help reaching these objectives. It is essential to our collective commitment to build a bilingual Canada and guarantee the vitality of our official-language minority communities.”

According to the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, nearly 50 per cent of teachers working in French programs will quit in the first five years, further putting strain on the demand for teachers in B.C.

“The shortage of qualified teachers, including in French, can lead to challenging situations for B.C. families,” says Isabelle Côté, associate director of the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs (OFFA) at SFU and senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education. “There is a real need to support them once they start their career.”

By providing in-person and online workshops and networking opportunities, French-language teachers across the province can tap into training, expertise and a sense of community that’s vital to making teachers feel supported in their roles. That’s especially true for French-language teachers in smaller and rural B.C. communities, where they might be the only francophone teacher and would otherwise be isolated from peers.

“This funding allows SFU to implement innovative services and program that respond in a tangible way to the critical needs of Core French, French Immersion and Programme Francophone,” says Gino LeBlanc, director of the OFFA. “Among others, with the creation of the SFU J'enseigne en français network, we hope to create this collaborative space where all stakeholders - academics, teachers, administrators, pre-service students, francophone organizations - work together to support French-language education in the province.”

Main initiatives supported by the recruitment and retention funding

  • Graduate diploma in education (GDE), Leadership and Innovative Practice in Francophone Education in a Minority Setting: A two-year program offered online designed with the Conseil scolaire francophone to support teachers in leadership roles.
  • Creation of the network SFU J’enseigne en français: Gathers academics, teachers, administrators, pre-service students, and offers a collaborative space to support French-language education in the province. It includes the annual Conference SFU J’enseigne en français, a one-day conference of professional development for French Immersion, Core French and program francophone teachers and administrators.
  • Non-credited workshops series and summer institutes Week FrancoFUN: Accessible province wide, the sessions are in-person or online depending on the school district’s needs.
  • Hiring at OFFA with the collaboration of the Faculty of Education: Two Faculty Associates to develop, coordinate and deliver non-credited workshop series and the annual conference.