Create a confident & healthy eater with my new book: Baby Self-Feeding

On Sale Now! Quarto Amazon Indigo Barnes & Noble Indiebound

Is French Immersion Right for Your Child?

April 6th, 2015 | By: Nancy Ripton
It's never too early to start questioning whether French Immersion is the right education choice for your child.

In This Article

Is French Immersion Right for Your Child?

Whether you’re making the decision this year or thinking ahead to the future, the choice to put your child in French Immersion is a big decision.

Many parents are seeing bilingualism as an upcoming divider, much the way a degree is today. That’s just one of many reasons enrolment in French Immersion has soared since 2000. Throughout the nineties national French Immersion enrollment held steady at 7.9 percent. Last year 14 percent of all Canadian students were enrolled in French Immersion and the numbers continue to grow each year. “French Immersion growth is outstripping our national growth,” says Shirley Ann Teal, Superintendent of Education for Peel, where the board recently placed a cap on the French Immersion program when numbers topped 25 percent last year.

Every province in Canada has seen growth in French Immersion, with the demand being most pronounced in Ontario and the coastal provinces. Prince Edward Island’s French Immersion enrollment accounts for almost 25 percent of their total student population and lotteries and enrollment caps are commonplace throughout Ontario and British Columbia.

“The first wave of French Immersion graduates are having children and placing them in the program because it worked for them,” says Lisa Marie Perkins, President of Canadian Parents for French. But that only tells a small part of the growth story. A recent survey by the Peel District School Board found that the number one reason parents enroll their children in French Immersion is to open the doors to future opportunities. “As [society] ratchets up expectations. People look for additional things to set their children apart,” says Janet McDougald, chair of the Peel District School Board. Many parents also want to increase their child’s appreciation of other languages and cultures. This is especially important to Canada’s new immigrant population. “New residents have been brought up that it’s normal to speak more than one language,” says McDougald.

One of the more unspoken reasons for growth in some areas is that French Immersion schools tend to score higher on provincial exams and school rankings. People want their child to go to the best school possible and French Immersion schools do very well in EQA [Ontario’s provincial acronym]. “For many parents French Immersion is seen as a way to get their child into a better school,” says McDougald.

French Immersion Benefits

“Early immersion is the best way to learn another language,” says Perkins. “The connections you can make earlier in life are better and easier.” French Immersion isn’t just about learning another language. French skills transfer to a variety of other areas in your life. A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology found that learning a new language (especially between the ages of five and seven) improves the working memory, which is responsible for tasks such as reading and math. A study in The Journal of Neuroscience found that speaking more than one language increases cognitive flexibility and the ability to adapt to unfamiliar or unexpected circumstances. Learning another language in early childhood increases the size of the hippocampus, a deep-lying brain structure that is involved in learning new material and spatial navigation. It also enhances three areas in the cerebral cortex. These changes make bilinguals more adapt at prioritizing tasks and working on multiple projects.

Lastly, there is the unknown. “You don’t know what your child will want to be,” says Perkins. “You need to be bilingual to become Prime Minister. Isn’t that option a right of every child?” Even if your child doesn’t end up ruling our country, they may need another language just to get a job. The unemployment rate for bilinguals is three percent lower than Canadians who only speak English. Bilinguals also earn an average of 10 percent more. When your child graduates, there will be more French-speaking Canadians than any time in history. It may be more important than ever to have a second language.