French immersion has become the leading option for area students who choose to learn a second language.
In recent years, both the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division (SRPSD) and Prince Albert Catholic School Division (PACSD) have seen their French immersion programs grow rapidly in popularity.
A concurrent development has been the gradual reduction of other options such as core French, though the PACSD maintains intensive French in Grade 6 and enhanced French in Grades 7, 8 and 9.
“What we found was most of the students who wanted to take French began in the French immersion program,” SRPSD education director Robert Bratvold said.
“That’s kind of (what) the challenge was with the core French … Those who were really keen about learning French tended to be in the French immersion program … That left our core French program as tough to support, because those with some keen interest tended to be in immersion.”
The SRPSD stopped offering core French as an option several years ago due to declining enrollment as well as difficulties in finding qualified staff to support the program.
The public school division currently offers French immersion at Debden Public School, Carlton Comprehensive High School and École Vickers School. At the latter, 62 per cent of students last year opted for French immersion, with the remainder studying in English.
While PACSD has the additional option of intensive French, students there with an interest in learning a second language have overwhelmingly elected to join the French immersion program.
“We have actually a very successful second-language program,” PACSD education director Lorel Trumier said.
What we found was most of the students who wanted to take French began in the French immersion program. Robert Bratvold
“Our French immersion has 26 per cent of our students currently enrolled in our French immersion program. That’s probably one of the highest percentages in the province. So we’re seeing lots of success in our French immersion program.
“We also offer an intensive French program starting at Grade 6. So we see lots of people engaging in second-language instruction in this area, and it might be because of their background or their interest in a second language.”
Second language programs are not mandatory in Saskatchewan schools. Each school division is free to determine its own offerings based on perceived interest or local needs.
Though online French programs are available for students whose schools do not offer French-language instruction, assistant deputy minister for education Greg Miller noted that schools can also elect to teach different languages altogether.
“The work of the school divisions really is to work in their local context to provide language options,” Miller said.
“We know that core French and French immersion have been developed. There are other languages that have been offered around the province.
“For example, Cree is offered in some schools, and that’s another option that school divisions have worked on and worked out with their local school communities.”