The Record recently published an article on the French Immersion program in Waterloo Region, featuring a variety of WRDSB Trustee candidates, including myself. I am quoted saying:
“We need to address the unintentional or, in some cases, intentional intellectual and class segregation between French immersion and English-only classes,” Kitchener candidate Samantha Estoesta said. “We should not have a tiered educational system.”
Estoesta believes in providing immersion to every student who wants it, but wants people to be clearer on expectations.
“There are multiple studies that demonstrate that French immersion does not lead to bilingual students, and we need to ensure that the guardians enrolling their children into the program understand this,” she said.
As noted above, I believe that every student should have access to French Immersion, however, we need to address the inequalities in the student learning experience – inclusive of any unintentional/intentional intellectual and class segregation.
Jeff Outhit asked each trustee candidate a variety of questions, and I believe that it should be public each of our answers. For transparency, I have given my responses below.
Have your children been enrolled in French immersion or do you plan to enrol them in it?
We are fortunate to have a French Immersion program at the school within our boundary. I plan to enrol our soon-to-be born child in the French Immersion program.
Do you support the program and why?
French Immersion is a key and crucial component of the Ontario educational system – and every student should have access to a French Immersion program if they so wish. While I did not attend French Immersion, I took French classes throughout my educational journey.
Are you concerned about French immersion and why?
There are a few issues that give me concern. Enrolment in post-secondary educational programs to become FI teachers remains low while the demand for French Immersion teachers remains high. This has forced the number of schools that have French Immersion programs to shrink.
I believe we need to be clear about the expectations on the program. Attending a French Immersion program will not guarantee bilingualism. There are multiple studies that demonstrate that French Immersion does not lead to bilingual students, and we need to ensure that the guardians enrolling their children into the program understand this when making this choice. More importantly, we need to address the unintentional or, in some cases, intentional intellectual and class segregation between French Immersion and English-only classes. As noted in your research, there can be drastic differences in the types of supports and individual attention that students receive in French Immersion compared to non-FI classes, along with steep dropout rates from the program. We should not have a tiered educational system; each students should have access to the supports they need no matter the language program they are in.
Do you believe the program should be expanded, restrained or shut down?
There should be a clear assessment of the program. The parents I have spoken to during this campaign regarding FI have expressed their frustration in not being able to enrol their children in a FI program at the school within their boundary, frustration over the difference in supports for students in FI compared to those not in FI, and frustration over the low rate of bilingualism after the completion of the program. I think it would be shortsighted to expand, restrain, or shut down the program without a comprehensive study of the demand, possible intellectual segregation, and any differences in the support for students in FI and not in FI.
If elected as a trustee, what do you propose to do about French immersion, if anything?
If elected, I would propose a study to be done by WRDSB staff to assess the following: the number of students who want to be in the FI program but are not, how many FI teachers would be needed to support FI learning for all of the students who wish to be in a FI program, the cost to staff new FI programs at schools across the Region to meet the demand (if/when found), and a comprehensive study of unintentional /intentional intellectual segregation and tiered experience of students in FI and not in FI. Additionally, I am committed to actively meeting with the families of current, future, and prospective French Immersion students and non-French Immersion students to seek their concerns, questions, and opinions on the FI program.