fi 2nd thoughts

November 4, 2013

in recent years the demand for french immersion schools in ontario has increased ahead of long term trend forecasts.  seems more and more parents are either finding the francophile in themselves or seeing the benefit of bi-lingual (or for plenty of children in ethnically diverse vaughan, tri- and multi-lingual) language skills for their children.

but i have a doubt.  (quote from the planetary prez from ‘fifth element’.  all my movie references are likely to be old ones, don’t see many new movies.)

my doubt springs from a little research i have been doing on french immersion school and pupil outcomes.  the stats all show that fi students from about grade 4 onwards consistently outperform their english language school peers in not just french language learning but english, music, maths, science, pretty much all school subjects.  sounds awesome, doesn’t it?  so what is there to doubt?  it’s not a level playing field!  the kids that are still in fi in grade 4 are likely to be the higher performing kids anyways.  what’s that?  “still in fi?”

it seems by grade 2 or 3 in fi (remembering fi in vaughan starts in grade 1, in toronto in senior kindergarten) the fi schools have filtered the students enough to know who will be a success and inexorably pressure the less-likely-to-be-successful students’ parents to put them back in english language schools.  you see in fi schools there is no extra support, if you don’t get it in the classroom you’re not going to get it at all.  no reading support, no learning support, no disability support, nothing.  so either you keep up, very likely with your parents paying for supplementary education, or you slip further and further behind.

i’d like to see all the extras that resource english instruction schools available in fi schools too.  seems there’s not the money or enough french speakers.  perhaps in a generation when all these new fi pupils graduate they’ll take up jobs to support a new lot of fi pupils.

by the time a kid is transferred back to an english school are they behind in the normal english school curriculum because they have spent a year or two going back to basics and beginner levels in a fi school.  they are also in a new school, probably without friends or relationships with staff, and more than likely feeling disenfranchised and frustrated about their learning and going to school at all.  it’s no wonder to me these kids score poorly, thus contributing to an overall lower score for the school in general.

those kids that remain in fi schools, studies repeatedly show, come from higher socio-economic families, with greater disposable incomes and tertiary educated parents.  these kids would, more often than not, do better at any school regardless.

my doubt centres on percy (and tally should he start fi too) changing from fi in canada to an english language school back in oz and suffering from being behind the usual curriculum milestones.  yes, she’s a generally smart girl but i don’t believe she’s any sort of genius and she’s just as prone as any other kid, if not more so, to meltdowns of frustration and despair if she doesn’t learn something at what she believes is a quick enough rate.  will all this add to a disillusionment with school and learning and lesser outcomes for her for her entire life?

still, the concern may be taken out of our hands, and come sooner than our return to australia if, coming to the end of this school year, we are one of the parents that are ‘strongly advised’ to put our kid back in an english school!