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Ukrainian-English Bilingual Education

Since the late 1940s, the province of Saskatchewan has been a leader in the area of Ukrainian curriculum development for secondary and post-secondary education. In the mid-1970s, the province embarked on a new initiative which focused attention on the development of Ukrainian bilingual programming for the elementary level. Initial discussion about the possibility of a Ukrainian-English bilingual program in Saskatchewan began in 1975, one year after the implementation of a similar program in Alberta. In the spring of 1979, after concerted lobby efforts by parents and community members, the Board of Education for Saskatoon Catholic Schools agreed to pilot a partial immersion (bilingual) Ukrainian language program, enriched with cultural elements and religious education.

The first Ukrainian-English bilingual kindergarten was introduced at St. Goretti School in Saskatoon in September 1979. The close proximity of this school to Ukrainian churches, halls, and a museum provided students with linguistic and cultural support, while a Catholic high school nearby allowed for growth and expansion to the upper grades. Shortly after the program’s inception, the school division requested curricular support for program development from the provincial education ministry. In 1981, the Department of Education agreed to provide funding for bilingual curriculum development. In subsequent years, the department also provided the support of a Ukrainian language consultant.

The goals of the Ukrainian-English Bilingual Program are threefold: to provide children with the opportunity to learn to communicate in two languages; to develop an understanding and appreciation of the Ukrainian cultural and religious heritage in Canada; and to develop positive attitudes about other languages, cultures, and traditions. The program follows the regular provincial curriculum in all subject areas, with half of each instructional day conducted in Ukrainian and the other half in English. Various cultural projects and special events enhance the curriculum, giving parents and community members the opportunity to visit the school as presenters, volunteers, or guests. Enrolment in the Ukrainian-English bilingual program in Saskatoon remains constant. In 2001 the K–8 elementary program was relocated to Holy Family School, while the high school program has remained at E.D. Feehan High School. A highlight for students in the senior grades is the opportunity to participate in a three-week exchange program with Ukraine.

Nadia Prokopchuk

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