Why is enrolment an issue in French-Second-Language (FSL) education?

When FSL programs are optional, enrolment levels can affect program quality and sustainability. School district policy often dictates that without a minimum level of enrollment, FSL programs cannot be sustained.

Many schools and school districts mistakenly believe that immersion is suitable only for above-average students, so that students with special needs or lower academic abilities are often prevented or discouraged from enrolling in immersion programs.

Why is student recruitment an issue?

Student recruitment refers to the promotion of optional programs to encourage enrolment. Program promotion to parents is particularly vital for early immersion programs, as enrollment must occur in the first several years of school. At later entry points, FSL options are often competing with other optional programs.

Why is student retention an issue?

Retention of students is an issue for programs that are optional or become optional. Most attrition from core French occurs when the program becomes optional. Most attrition from French immersion occurs in the middle elementary grades due to concern with the rate of French- or English-language learning and at the transition point between elementary and secondary school.

What causes attrition from FSL programs?

Attrition refers to the rate at which students leave programs. Documented causes for attrition in elementary school include:

  • concern with the rate of French- or English-language learning;
  • problems with teachers; or
  • inadequate resources for FSL special education.

Documented causes for attrition in secondary school include:

  • lack of course variety;
  • forced choices between FSL and other programs;
  • perception of a heavy workload; or
  • often misguided belief that better grades will be had outside of FSL.

How many students are enrolled in FSL programs?

In 1977, the year CPF was founded, there were fewer than 40,000 students enrolled in French immersion programs. Today, more than 309,000 students are enrolled in French immersion programs across Canada. Nearly 1,578,000 students are enrolled in core/basic programs across Canada.

In all, over 1,890,000 Canadian students are studying French through the core/basic or immersion programs.