Enrolment increases for French immersion in Nanaimo school district

A strong foundation of students has again led to a French immersion enrolment record in the Nanaimo school district.

French-as-a-second language advocacy group Canadian Parents for French announced last week that Nanaimo set a district record for enrolment in 2014-15. The district said it had 1,600 students enrolled in the program in that year, more than the previous year’s record of 1,386 students.

Early French immersion, which includes kindergarten to Grade 7, is offered at Hammond Bay, North Oyster, Pauline Haarer and Quarterway elementary schools, with Quarterway also offering immersion for latecomers beginning in grades 6 and 7. Students can continue immersion at Nanaimo District Secondary School.

Enrolment has grown again this year, as preliminary 2015-16 numbers indicate 1,792 students enrolled in French immersion across the district, which amounts to 13 per cent of district enrolment.

Peter Hewitt, school district French programs administrator, said the programs allow for an establishment of a French immersion student base and thus larger enrolment numbers as students advance through the program.

“It’s building up roots from the bottom and there are bigger numbers moving through the system ... so we show increases each year. Last year we were at 1,600, this year were at 1,800, so that’s bringing all the [kindergarteners] right through to the secondary level. Students are staying in the program to graduation to get their dual Dogwood diplomas,” said Hewitt.

Stephanie McCune is happy with the education son Noah is receiving at Grade 3 at Quarterway. She said immersion is enriching and opening doors for him.

“It’s starting him off on the right foot of having options, so I feel like in terms of his brain development, in terms of his ability to be culturally aware, and to be able to experience this world in a different way, I wanted him to start off like that,” said McCune.

There were 50,000 students enrolled in French immersion across B.C. in 2014-15, or just over nine per cent of provincial public school enrolment, according to Canadian Parents for French.

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