3 Reasons For & Against French Immersion & 5 Reasons Not To Stress

Choosing where your child goes to school can be stressful. It can cause conflict in relationships and emerge as an issue within couples counselling and the work Counsellors do here in Nanaimo and on Vancouver Island.

In our global society and multicultural relationships, many parents come from very different backgrounds. These natural differences can result in strong feelings about how one’s child should be educated.

I, for example, was raised and educated in Ireland where the Irish language as we call it, “Gaeilge”, is compulsory from day one. In fact, unless you qualify for some kind of exemption, you can’t go to university without having passed your final Irish exam in high school. I took German in high school too (just to be different) and though I enjoyed it in some ways, I never had a passion for languages.

Now, for purposes of full disclosure and potential bias, my eldest is in Kindergarten in a local French Immersion school. I don’t speak French and I am not about to sway you all to join me and the choice my family made.


3 Reasons for French Immersion

1. The earlier a child starts learning a new language, the easier it is for them. Also,  learning more than one language helps with overall language skills. So, if children are required to learn another language within the Canadian school system then it could make sense to immerse them in it from the beginning.

2. If you do not like aspects of your child’s catchment school then French Immersion is an alternative. Alternatives are important and necessary.

3. For those who stick with French Immersion, the benefits of a French education can certainly open doors down the road. One study performed by the Association of Canadian Studies found that workers who could speak both French and English earn almost 10 percent more than those who speak English alone. Not to mention the fact that nearly 67,000 Government of Canada jobs require workers to be proficient in both official languages.


3 Reasons Against French Immersion

1. French or other languages, in general, have become less important to English speaking parts of the globe as a means to getting ahead in the working world. As British Columbians (or immigrants to BC) we could argue we are lucky to have English as the commonly spoken language, the global language of business and trade. So why add another language at all?

2. If it is later discovered that your child has a learning disability of any kind (in elementary school), then French Immersion may no longer be the best fit and your child will have to experience a transition to another school (true for Nanaimo/central Vancouver Island). This could be stressful and upsetting for the child and the family.

3. The drop-out rate from the French Immersion program is high, which is indicative of the added challenges of the program. 

I was like many other parents, unsure whether to choose French Immersion and I still have concerns sometimes. I do wish to normalize your concerns and invite you to consider the following.


5 Reasons Not To Stress!

1. The very fact you are thinking about your child’s education and reading this article means you are already being a good parent. Caring about your child’s education, their wellbeing, and their world will always be more important than what school they go to.

2. Whatever challenges come their way, and there will be challenges regardless, your support will be the difference that matters overall.

3. The bottom line is that no matter how much research you do, there are arguments for both choices and you just won’t know what is working or going well until you and your child are in the school system. 

4. A lot is out of your control but what you can control is the relationship you cultivate with your child about education in general. If your child has a positive attitude towards their education and good experiences especially in the early years of elementary school then you will have succeeded in the most impactful way. You will have encouraged your child to enjoy learning and if they have that, then they will do well wherever they go to school.

5. We are lucky when it comes to where we live in BC. We have small enough communities on Vancouver Island and here in Nanaimo that our children’s school or neighbourhood does not need to determine or control their sense of community and friendships. How many of us still see the same faces we met at the Health Unit when we were brand new parents or bump into friends when out and about? School is just one part of what will shape your little person. 

Perhaps these points can help you to put a little less pressure on yourself and your relationships as you accompany your child through the varying chapters of their young lives.


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