After decades of lobbying by Filipino groups, Vancouver will finally have a school that will teach Filipino language and culture to its students.
The pilot program was approved by the Vancouver School Board and will be offered to students from grades 10 to 12 at the Charles Tupper Secondary School starting next school year.
UBC professor Leonora Angeles sees this is a win for the community.
"It’s a long time coming, but as we say, better late than never," Angeles said. "Mostly children of 1st generation and of course now, children of the second generation, Canadian-born Filipino-Canadians, who will benefit from learning the mother language of their parents. It’s a real win for the community."
Grade school teacher Nina Luistro also welcomed the news, saying this will help many students who are not given the chance to learn about their culture and their language in school.
"I have a student who is in Grade III and I was trying to speak to him in Filipino and he could hardly speak any. Maybe because his environment is now mostly in English and he said, 'Can you teach me Filipino? I want to learn,' and he said 'why, how come we’re not learning it in our schools?'," Luistro said.
Angeles shared that Filipino groups like Tulayan have been lobbying to have Filipino classes offered in schools in British Columbia since the 1990s.
She urges the community to rally again to have more schools in the province offer the program.
"I think it will really, really be up for the community to really ensure that this gets scaled up and replicated in many other schools and of course beyond 10 to 12. It can also be done as early as kindergarten and even pre-schools," the professor said.
Angeles added that if the Filipino language course will be taught in more BC schools, this will pave the way for more Philippine-trained teachers to share their expertise.
"This particular initiative will create openings for our Philippine-trained teachers to get their certification and demonstrate their ability to teach the languages, history, and of course Philippine culture."
According to Angeles, only the province of Manitoba has a Filipino immersion program in addition to its Filipino language and culture classes, while Alberta offers the Filipino language course in a few of its schools.