The Sooke chapter of Canadian Parents for French are looking for parents in Sooke to join its organization in the hopes of promoting French language education in local schools.
“Our organization has been around for a long time, and in Sooke we’ve been operating for quite a while,” said Cendra Beaton, the president of the chapter.
“Sooke was one of the toughest chapters to get going for some reason, but we are established now and I can just see us getting stronger.”
The parents’ group is a non-profit organization that helps provide French (as a second language) learning opportunities, support for parents and advocacy for French programs in public schools.
Core French instruction as a second language is already a subject presented to children in grades five to seven. Students receive about 75 minutes per week of instruction in French. When those students reach Grade 8 the instruction time jumps to three hours per week, a number that is maintained to Grade 12.
More than 12.5 per cent of the student population in the Sooke School District have opted for a more immersive experience and are enrolled in full French Immersion training, a number that Beaton would like to see increase.
“The benefits of learning French as a second language are nearly endless,” said Beaton.
“When French immersion students graduate Grade 12, they receive a “Double Dogwood” (bilingual graduation certificate) that they can attach to their resumés and their post-secondary school applications. It gives them an immediate advantage, particularly in B.C. where the rates of bilingualism (French and English) are lower than elsewhere in Canada.”
According to Statistics Canada, people who speak French and English earn 10 per cent more on average and have a lower unemployment rate than Canadians who only speak one of the two official languages.
The skills of the French immersion students in Sooke School District were on full display last week when representatives of the program competed in the Concours d’art oratoire 2019. The competition is a nationwide event for youth studying French in which students prepare a three to five-minute speech and present it to a panel of judges.
The winners of last week’s event win the opportunity to compete at the provincial level on May 4 and the winners there will go on to compete in national competition in Ottawa on June 1. It’s the 17th year for the competition and prizes include bursaries of up to $25,000.
And although none of the six winners last week were from Sooke, Beaton is hopeful that as the program grows in the region, Sooke students will be on the winner’s list in future years.
“We have 359 students in French immersion classes in Sooke at the moment, and I’m confident that the number will keep growing,” said Beaton.
“We’re starting to dispel some of the myths around French immersion and as parents learn more about the program, they are seeing the benefits for their children.”
Anyone looking for more information on Canadian Parents for French can visit cpf.ca.