A survey conducted by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics reveals a number of parents still know very little about French Second Language programs offered in the city.
Released on Monday, the survey incorporates answers from 1,712 parents – 54 per cent of all parents in Whitehorse with school- and pre-school-aged children.
With the survey response being under 70 per cent – the norm to ensure a valid representation of the sample – the report notes that “caution should be (used)” when relying on the results.
The survey looked at parents’ knowledge of the program, the reasons for sending or not sending their children to one of the French language programs, why some of them left the program and general feedback.
The goal was to look at what drives parents to choose or reject French immersion programs for their children.
More information is needed, as 23.2 percent of respondents said they didn’t know anything about the programs.
Asked about it, the Department of Education notes that 50 per cent of parents do have enough information to make an informed decision.
“We plan to increase the ways in which we inform parents about FSL programs, and we are discussing our plans and methods,” Karen Walker, a Department of Education spokesperson, told the Star today.
The department’s website has been updated, she added, and a new page called FracoFun to promote events and activities involving FSL is in the making.
Long-established programs are also the ones parents are the most aware of, she said.
Three French second language programs are offered in Whitehorse.
For basic French conversation skills, students can take “Core French”, with two hours of class time every week, starting in Grade 5.
Intensive French sees students receive 80 per cent of their classes for half the year and 20 per cent for the rest of the year.
Mathematics are taught in English all the time, with the goal to have “effective and meaningful communication in French,” according to the department’s website.
For those wanting to send their children to university in French, French immersion is offered, starting in Kindergarten or Grade 1 for the early program and Grade 6 for the late program.
Respondents would also prefer receiving information via an information session.
Currently, most of them learned about the programs through other parents or their children’s school, the survey shows.
Parents’ top reasons for sending their children through the programs were to learn another language and gain a “competitive edge in the Canadian job market.”
School location and the insurance that both English and French skills would be developed were the two biggest deterrents for parents not sending their children to French immersion programs.
The survey also looked at reasons that drove children to leave French immersion program.
For more than a quarter of respondents, their children didn’t want to stay in the program.
The program was too demanding for more than 15 per cent of them, and 10 per cent of parents point to the fact they couldn’t help with homework.
“We provide a range of supports to all Yukon students if they are struggling in school, including to students in French immersion programs,” Walker said.
“We continue to improve these supports, and the new five-year action plan for FSL programming will take the findings of the survey into account in developing future plans.”
Some parents also asked that the programs be available in the communities.
A French monitor does make regular visit to eight rural schools that don’t have the programs, Walker said.
The program, which has been well-received, is set to continue for 2016-2017.
General feedback from respondents offered a wide range of opinions, from the parents very satisfied with the programs to the one asking why French is even taught.
“There were a significant number of comments about why French was being taught as a second language with a ‘40 per cent First Nations’ population in Whitehorse as well as so many other languages to choose from, such as Spanish,” the survey says.
It’s not indicated how many of the 1,194 people who provided general feedback also made that comment.
Walker noted that the survey was specifically looking at FSL programming, but that an action plan for the future growth of language programming is in the works.
A number of First Nations languages are taught throughout the territory, she added, as well as Spanish and German in Whitehorse schools.