As the end of my son's first year in kindergarten approaches, enrollment for French immersion is abounding, and so too is the question: "So, is your son going into the French program?"
Because we lived in a different catchment when my first son attended kindergarten, and there was no talk about immersion programs, I hadn't given it much thought before. Now, after having to answer the question enough times, I've started to notice a tinge of self-consciousness when answering, 'No, he's staying in English.'
So why does this feeling of mediocrity wash over me when relaying the fact that my kids will learn to read and write in the language that I speak, along with more than 80 per cent of the country?
"I've started to notice a tinge of self-consciousness when answering, 'No, he's staying in English.'"
Corrado Ciapanna, Superintendent of Education for the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board, said that research suggests that "second language learning can also greatly strengthen first language skills by deepening the student's understanding of language function and structure."
So, do I appear ignorant or not as engaged in my children's education, because I'm not taking advantages of these benefits? Is it not enough to say that I don’t think it’s the right fit for my kids? Or maybe it's because we also don't fall into some of the categories that have become increasingly characteristic of the English program families who choose to stay.
According to the Toronto District School Board, children with special needs account for 15 per cent of English stream students, compared to only 4 per cent of French immersion students. ESL (English as a second language) students are also unique in the immersion program, choosing instead to stay within the English stream.
In 2009 to 2010, in Grades SK to 6, about 1 per cent of French immersion students had been in Canada one and three years, compared to 7 per cent of students in the TDSB in general. Regarding socio-demographic background, only 4 per cent of students are from the lowest income bracket in the French immersion stream.
The diversity that should be ubiquitous in Canadian public school classrooms seems to be fading with this division.
I wondered whether the demand for French immersion had created a two-tiered system, and whether other parents shared my curiosity about the impact of this. So, I went to the streets of my neighborhood to ask French immersion and English stream parents about their experiences. Read their views and experiences in the slideshow below, and share your own in the comments.