French Immersion Program
Date came into force or revised
The Ministry of Education supports French Immersion programming in BC schools, consistent with the goal of providing the opportunity for non-francophone students to become bilingual in English and French.
Rationale or purpose of policy
French Immersion programming benefits the cognitive and social development of students, as well as their opportunities for career advancement. Research demonstrates that students who successfully complete a French Immersion program attain functional bilingualism while doing as well as, or better than, their unilingual peers in the content areas of curriculum, including English Language Arts.
- School Act (PDF), Section 5 (3): Subject to the approval of the minister, a board may permit an educational program to be provided in a language other than as provided under subsections (1) and (2).
- Ministerial Order 333/99, Educational Program Guide Order (PDF)
- Ministerial Order 295/95, Required Areas of Study in an Educational Program Order (PDF)
- Ministerial Order 302/04, Graduation Program Order (PDF)
Policy in full
The major goal of French Immersion is to provide the opportunity for non-francophone students to become bilingual in English and French. Bilingualism is achieved by providing instruction of the basic curriculum entirely in French during the first years. Once a firm base in French has been established, instruction in English language arts is added, and instruction in the English language gradually increases. Students continue to receive instruction in certain subjects in French so that proficiency is achieved in both languages by the end of Grade 12.
French Immersion and Programme francophone, which is a program for first language learners, are distinct programs with different purposes. French Immersion is a separate program where instruction is offered in the French language for second language learners. French Immersion programs must consist of instruction in English and French.
French Immersion may be offered in two models: Early French Immersion, beginning in Kindergarten and Late French Immersion, beginning at the Grade 6 level. The specific requirements for these two program types are described below in the Procedures section of this policy.
Once a French Immersion program has been established, districts should develop policy that will serve to maintain and strengthen the program. In order to ensure the delivery of effective French Immersion programs, school districts should make sure their policies are consistent with Ministry policy.
French Immersion Program content
French Immersion programs must parallel the regular English program in structure and content The content of French Immersion programs must parallel that of the regular curriculum as set out in the Required Areas of Study in an Educational Program Order.
Kindergarten to Grade 12 students in the British Columbia school system are eligible to enter an immersion program at the appropriate entry points, if the program has been made available and if there is space at the appropriate grade, subject to the registration policies of the school district in which the student resides.
Having established a program, school districts should promote the program and recruit students. Should the enrollment become insufficient, school districts should consult parents to find solutions. If there is no resolution to the problem, the district should give at least one year's notice to parents of any changes contemplated to permit full discussion and to allow parents time to consider alternatives for their children.
French Immersion programs are eligible to receive federal funding to support French language learning as defined in the French Funding Guide. Federal funding is subject to approval of Protocol of Agreements for Minority-Language Education and Second-Language Instruction.
Procedures related to policy
In order to qualify for French Immersion funding, boards of education must follow the Ministry’s policies and also the procedures set out in this section.
The Ministry of Education provides curriculum for French Immersion: Early French Immersion (Kindergarten to Grade-12) and Late French Immersion (Grade 6-12) programs. These programs are differentiated according to point of entry and are as follows:
|Early French Immersion||Kindergarten (and Grade 1)||K-12|
|Late French Immersion||Grade 6||6-12|
Therefore, if a school district offers Early French Immersion, it must be available at the Kindergarten level. Ideally, students enter in Kindergarten, but they may enter in Grade 1 if space is available.
Entry to the immersion program at other than the normal entry points should be considered only if there is adequate space and if the student is adequately proficient in French. Adequate proficiency is defined as sufficient language skill to permit the student to be able to comprehend instruction in the subjects taught in French, assuming a period of 4 to 8 weeks of adjustment to the program.
Early French Immersion
The Early Immersion program provides students with an education equivalent to that which is available in the English language program, while providing students with the opportunity to acquire a high level of proficiency in French. Students normally enter Early Immersion in Kindergarten (and occasionally in Grade 1). Upon graduation from the program in Grade 12, they should be able to participate easily in conversations in French, take post-secondary courses with French as the language of instruction and accept employment with French as the language of the work place.
Proportion of French to English Instruction
In Early French Immersion programs, Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 should be taught totally in French. Beginning in Grade 4 and continuing to Grade 12, English Language Arts shall be provided for all French Immersion students. Other courses may be offered in English. The following chart shows the recommended time allocations:
|Grade||% of French Instruction||% of English Instruction|
|K-(2 or 3)||100||0|
|(3 or) 4-7||80||20|
|8-10||50 - 75||25 - 50|
|11-12||no less than 25||no more than 75|
To receive federal funding, a minimum of 25 percent of instruction must be in French to be funded as French Immersion. A less than 25 per cent time allocation is considered Core French and will be funded accordingly.
Whenever possible, the courses that are conducted in English should be taught by someone other than the regular French Immersion teacher and preferably by a teacher with excellent English skills.
French Immersion - Secondary
To achieve the goals of this program, students should continue in French Immersion through Grade 12.
Where possible, districts should provide some choice of subjects offered in French at the secondary level.
In order to receive a diploma de fin d'etudes secondaire en Colombie-Britannique, French Immersion students must meet the requirements as stated in Graduation Program Order.
Late French Immersion
The Late French Immersion program provides students with an education equivalent to that which is available in the English language program, while providing opportunities to acquire a high level of proficiency in French. Students normally enter Late Immersion in Grade 6. Upon graduation from the program in Grade 12, should be able to participate easily in French conversations, take post-secondary courses with French as the language of instruction, and accept employment with French as the language of work.
Proportion of French to English Instruction
The Ministry recommends that the first year of Late French Immersion programs be taught totally in French. In the second year, English Language Arts and other courses taught in English should not exceed 20 per cent of instructional time.
Late French Immersion in the Secondary School
For Grades 8-12, see the French Immersion - Secondary above.
For students who wish to enrol in a French Immersion program, provincial transportation funding is based on the distance between a student's residence and the closest school in which there are appropriate grades, whether or not that school offers French Immersion.
School districts are free to develop their own transportation policies. If a district chooses to offer additional transportation services to French Immersion students, additional costs will be funded through the district's annual provincial funding or by levying fees to parents of French Immersion students.
Learning Resources and Pupil Services
Having implemented an immersion program, school districts should provide equitable learning resources, library books and student services in the same manner they are provided for in regular English programs.
Teachers of French Immersion
In addition to regular certification requirements, teachers teaching the French portion of immersion programs should have a high degree of oral and written proficiency in the French language. Teachers should have a sound knowledge of the culture of French-speaking peoples and should also have completed at least one course in immersion methodology.
For the purposes of communication in English within the school and with parents, teachers in these programs are expected to also have a good working knowledge of English.
Post-secondary training in a particular subject is a minimum criterion for teaching that subject at a secondary level, whether the subject is taught in English or in French.
Principals of French Immersion Schools
The principals of French immersion schools should be functionally bilingual. This should be a consideration when school districts are seeking new principals. At a minimum, they should be knowledgeable about, and supportive of, the immersion program.