French Immersion… my entire response (RE Jeff Outhit’s article)

For the sake of clarity, and for anyone who read Jeff Outhit’s recent article in the Waterloo Region Record, I thought it would be prudent to list all my answers to the questions he posed to myself and other candidates.

I welcome any feedback from the public as well. Please contact me at any time!

Have your children been enrolled in French immersion or do you plan to enroll them in it?

I don’t have kids in the system. But I have cousins who were in French immersion as students. Their mother is also bilingual. So I really can’t say how much more helpful French immersion would have been for their language skills and proficiency had they not also spoken French at home with her.

Some questions I’d have related to enrolling a child in French immersion are:

– Is the program helping students learn to speak and write the language with proficiency?

– Are they learning a language that they can use later on?

– Are they actually going to be fluently bilingual?

Do you support the program and why?

I support the program as long as students are taking something lasting away from it. But it strikes me as odd that helping students to become fully bilingual isn’t actually a firm goal within the program.

Until recently whenever I heard about French immersion I always assumed that was at least part of it.

Are you concerned about French immersion and why?

I am concerned about the gaps that create an ‘us vs them’ situation in schools. In my opinion every student should be given the same opportunities to succeed. The idea that French immersion is somehow better or more important is an issue for me. And if students with certain special education needs, recent immigrants, or just ‘average’ students aren’t treated the same as their peers in French immersion (or can’t take part in it), then that’s a problem. Beyond student achievement there are also questions around staffing and transportation that are cause for concern as well.

Do you believe the program should be expanded, restrained or shut down?

That’s a hard question to answer. I think it depends what the school board can do to level the playing field and bridge the gaps. But the program as it is should not be expanded. It’s not inclusive. And the ability for accommodation is lacking in many areas.

If elected as a trustee, what do you propose to do about French immersion, if anything?

I’m not against French immersion. But I do think trustees need to really look at the goals of the French immersion program and decide based on those goals—and the board’s ability to meet them—what to do with it. Our priority needs to be the well-being and success of all students.