Conseil scolaire francophone (CSF), or School District 93, has been providing an education in French to francophone students for more than 20 years. The CSF is part of the public education system in British Columbia and uses the same curriculum in its schools that is used in every other public school around the province.
The student population at CSF has been growing steadily over the last five years in both the elementary and high school grades.
"We're putting a lot of emphasis on growing our high school," says Laurent Brisebois, CSF Principal of l'école Andé Piolat on the North Shore. "There's sometimes a misconception that kids need to switch over to the English system after elementary school to be more fluent in the English language."
It's a misconception that M. Brisebois and his colleagues at other CSF high schools would like to challenge. In fact, students at CSF high schools consistently score higher than their unilingual counterparts in mandatory English language tests.
"One of the benefits of completing high school in the CSF system," says M. Brisebois, "is that students can earn two certificates: the Diplôme de fin d'études secondaires in French and the Dogwood Diploma in English. This opens up the opportunities for the student to study at the university level in English, take programs in French at an English university, such as Simon Fraser, or continue their studies at a French university either in Canada or abroad."
M. Brisebois also points to the time and effort by parents to help their child become bilingual.
"I tell parents that if they have been teaching their child two words for everything, one in French and one in English, since kindergarten only to let it go in grades 7 or 8, then by the time a student reaches the end of high school they will have forgotten everything,” he says. “A French education is an investment that should result in two graduation diplomas and more opportunities for their child."
Another benefit of a CSF high school education is the opportunity to graduate from an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. This internationally recognized diploma is accepted by many universities worldwide.
"Again, it's about giving your child the tools to advance in their education and life," says M. Brisebois.