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Study: Canada should promote bilingualism more

Canadian public schools aren’t doing enough to promote the country’s unique French/English bilingual society, new research commissioned by the Canadian Association of Public Schools – International (CAPS-I) has found.

The full report has been released to CAPS-I members and will help them to identify how to market their French programmes more effectively to international students.

Of the top 20 potential source countries, just over a third are also key source markets of students coming to learn English

Findings show that the single most significant reason high school students choose to study in Canada for French language acquisition is the country’s bilingual environment. However, less than 1% of international students in Canadian public high schools are enrolled in French programmes.

The number of Canadians who speak French exceeds 7,375,000, contributing to the total of over 9.5 million French speakers in the whole country. The largest Francophone populations can be found in Quebec and Ontario.

Demand for French education programmes in high schools was found to be highest in Europe and Latin America

Of the top 20 potential source countries for students who might come to Canadian high schools to learn French, just over a third are also key source markets of international students coming to study in English.

The data shows that almost two thirds of incoming students studying French in Canada do so with French as their third language, and CAPS-I’s Executive Director Bonnie McKie told The PIE News that for those with English as a second language the opportunity to practise both languages is a major selling point.

Until now, the French programme segment of the international K-12 market  has been largely undocumented.

CAPS-I, which represents 100 school districts, three of which are francophone members, commissioned  the study in response to an increasing number of member school boards expressing an interest in offering Francophone, French Immersion or bilingual (English/French) programs to international K-12 students.

Results of the study carried out by StudentMarketing are based on survey responses collected from 46 member school districts/boards, and 244 education agents from 58 different countries including Bangladesh, Mexico and Russia.

Demand for French education programmes in high schools was found to be highest in Europe and Latin America.

The report recommends that schools promote French immersion programmes that have been established in the country for over 30 years, emphasise the country’s bilingual environment and  market how extra-curricular activities are an integral part of the school community– unlike in competing Francophone countries where they are pursued outside of school.

“Our public school districts across the country will all offer French; however, many aren’t promoting it to international students or enrolling international students in those programmes,” confirmed McKie.

She said that after the organisation’s annual general meeting last month where the report was presented, the membership was keen to have further dialogue  on the report.

“They’re ready to strategise how to action some of the recommendations in terms of better promoting and educating populations around the world about the opportunities to learn French in Canada.”

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