Education shouldn’t depend on a lottery

School district should make French immersion program accessible to more students

I am the grandmother of a potential entrant to this year`s French immersion program. I am concerned to discover that her chances for entry are based on a lottery system. As a retired educator of over 35 years, I am appalled that the public education system in our community uses such an undemocratic method to assign places in this program.

All three of my adult children were educated in French immersion programs in Ontario. There is no question that their education in a second language from early years gave them great advantages in life. Two of them easily acquired a third language at later stages of their education, and all three of these adults use second and third languages in their careers and life. They did not enter these programs through a lottery system. They participated in an educational choice available to everyone. Surely a goal of a public education system is equality of educational opportunity. If a full-time kindergarten education can be offered to all five-year-old children, surely the opportunity for French immersion at sixth grade can be considered of comparable importance.

As a former second language teacher, I am astounded to learn that the designated class size for French immersion is 30. I am sure there is research that designates a much lower class size, especially in the entry points of total instruction in a second language. Common sense would suggest that class sizes should be 22 or 23, similar to the recommended class sizes for kindergarten.

As a taxpayer in Penticton, I would never oppose a tax increase if I knew the money went to improvements in our local educational offerings at the schools in Penticton and Summerland. What better investment do we have than the ones we make for the next generation?

I have seen the numbers concerning the choice to hold a lottery. It seems to me that a better solution would be to create more appropriate class sizes, and therefore all the applicants could be accommodated. I understand, also, that there have been some late applicants, and this might help the formation of appropriate class sizes. I wonder if new children moving into the area and desiring French immersion at the end of the summer would simply never be offered the opportunity. That would be double bad luck, since they never even had a chance to enter the lottery. And we know that lotteries are never an exercise in fairness.

I beseech our public officers on the school board to put on their thinking caps and try to come up with a better solution to meet the needs of the current, and future, cohorts of exiting fifth graders who proceed to middle school.

Karen A. Fort





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