A growing number of students in Canada are struggling to pay the bills and to navigate the complex educational environments they face as bilingual.
In Toronto, where more than 100,000 children are learning Spanish and French in primary school, it’s common to see bilingual students sitting in a classroom with two or three other students and a teacher from another language.
The average teacher spends between $50,000 and $60,000 annually on English-language education.
The cost of an English-speaking teacher’s salary in Toronto is $75,000 to $100,000, depending on the type of work they do.
For many, that’s the price they pay for a bilingual education.
But not everyone is happy.
According to a survey by the Canadian Association of English Teachers, more than 60 per cent of teachers in Ontario report they do not want to work in a bilingual environment.
A majority of teachers said they are more likely to leave the profession if they are not paid in their home language.
And in Ontario, the bilingual education gap is even wider.
More than half of English-learning teachers surveyed said they would leave the public sector if they were not paid the same amount of money as their Spanish-speaking colleagues.
The public sector is also grappling with the issue of teachers teaching in the languages of their students.
According the Ontario Ministry of Education, the average pay for an English teacher in the public system is $52,000.
But the Ministry also notes that bilingual teachers are paid much more than the average English teacher.
Some parents are asking the government to pay teachers in their native languages to teach their children.CBC Toronto spoke with several parents who said they had no choice but to pay bilingual teachers to teach in their language.
One of the parents, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had to choose between her two sons.
The younger son was learning in French, and he was spending $400 a month to teach him in Spanish.
“I could do nothing for him,” the mother said.
“We don’t have any other choice.”
She said the cost of tuition for her son was a staggering $2,500 per year.
“It’s hard to take on a loan to pay my children a little bit more than a month’s salary to be taught in their mother tongue.”
Another parent, who requested anonymity, said her two children were also learning in Spanish in their first year of secondary school.
She said it took her $1,000 a month just to pay them a little more.
“We could have had them in English at the beginning of school, but they didn’t know it, so they started with a lot of French lessons, and we paid them more,” the parent said.
“Now, they don’t want to learn Spanish anymore, they just want to play with the French ones.”CBC Toronto contacted some of the top teachers in Toronto to ask if they could speak to the impact that the bilingual culture has on their classroom.CBC Education Correspondent Susanne Ries said there is a significant amount of research to show the impact of bilingualism on students.
“You’re talking about a child, they’re learning the language in English and in their parent’s native tongue, which can have a profound effect on the way they learn language,” Ries explained.
She explained that students in French-speaking communities can feel uncomfortable and uncomfortable when speaking to people in their own language.
Ries said a good teacher can help students understand how their parent tongue can affect their learning.
“What I do find is when you’re teaching in English, your parents’ language is not the language they speak, it is the language of your teacher,” she said.
According Ries, it can also be very difficult to get the teacher to be fluent in both their own and their student’s native language.
“If you are not fluent in your own language, it makes it difficult to communicate with your parents in your native language,” she explained.
Another challenge teachers face is keeping their bilingual skills up.
“There are certain things that you cannot do in English,” Rys said.
For example, a teacher who speaks French may not be able to ask a question that would be expected in their child’s native French.
“Some of those skills you need to be able [in] your own mother tongue, in your father’s mother tongue,” Rries said.
But even though the majority of students are bilingual, some are still not.
“One of our main concerns is that we have teachers who are bilingual in English but not in their local language,” said Ries.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said it was a difficult issue for teachers to face.
“In many schools, the teachers are not bilingual.
They have not developed their ability to speak and write in both English and French,” the union said in a statement.”
For some teachers, it may be that the teacher’s language is a language that is not spoken or that they are unable to