Education Minister Rob Fleming. (Hansard TV)

Education minister off to Europe to recruit French teachers

France, Netherlands, Belgium stops to sign exchange agreements

Education Minister Rob Fleming is leading a recruiting trip to Europe next week to deal with a shortage of French teachers in B.C. schools.

The province is spending $40,000 to send a group including Fleming and deputy minister Scott MacDonald on a trip to France, Belgium and the Netherlands April 3-6. Vancouver School Board superintendent Suzanne Hoffman and B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Glen Hansman are also going, with their organizations paying their expenses, the ministry said in a statement.

Fleming intends to sign government-to-government agreements in France and Belgium to promote teacher and student exchanges.

High demand for French immersion has contributed to a shortage of French teachers across Canada, said Glyn Lewis, B.C. executive director of Canadian Parents for French.

There are currently more than 53,000 students enrolled in French immersion in B.C., about 10 per cent of the student population. The programs have a 96 per cent graduation rate, ministry statistics show.

B.C. schools have been on a recruiting drive for teachers in general, to hire 3,500 additional teachers to meet the terms of a 2017 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on class size formulas.

Earlier this year, Fleming announced funding for an additional 100 teacher training spaces for the highest-demand fields, including special education, math, physics and French.

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