French immersion gives kids an advantage in life
Re: The Feb. 28 letter from H.W. Druskee regarding the French immersion program in School District 73 (‘Neighbourhood schools for neighbourhood kids’):
Druskee wrongly suggests that choosing French immersion for our children puts them at a disadvantage in life.
It is quite the opposite.
French-immersion students benefit from many cognitive, economic and social advantages and finish the program as functionally bilingual young adults.
The most important advantage has nothing to do with being able to speak the language but, rather, the ability to think, which, one might argue, is essential in today’s society.
Being immersed in another language allows students to better focus on relevant information when problem-solving.
This skill makes them highly employable. Students in French immersion also regularly outperform other students on B.C. provincial standardized tests, including on English-language exams.
Add to this the reduced effects of aging on the brain in bilingual adults and it is easy to understand that, far from hindering students, French immersion places them at a distinct advantage. Although I would love to share all the research that supports all of these statements, it is impossible in a simple letter.
But, f you wish to confirm what I am saying, please visit the Canadian Council on Learning website here (http://www.ccl-cca.ca) and Statistics Canada's website.
The Canadian Council on Learning and Statistics Canada also show that, not only do bilingual Canadians enjoy higher rates of employment, they also make more money over the course of their careers.
This is due in part to the fact that they are able to work in either of Canada’s official languages and also because employers recognize that being bilingual makes for a better employee who can problem-solve.
On a more social level, French-immersion students are able to travel more freely and have access to a greater number of scholarships and student exchanges.
If Druskee's true concern is building better neighbourhoods, I would argue that we need to focus instead on reducing the amount of time our children spend in front of a television or computer and encourage them to get outside, where they will be able to play with their neighbourhood friends, build community and make lasting friendships.
To say French immersion places our students at a disadvantage or kills community is to abdicate our responsibility to give our children every advantage to be happy, healthy and successful in life.