Bilingual school programme opens in Christchurch [fr]

French/English programme "La Découverte" has opened at Christchurch’s Ao Tawhiti school.

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Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner open La Découverte in Christchurch on February 22
Tanya Mariel Iniguez Photography
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La Découverte pupils
Tanya Mariel Iniguez Photography

French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler cut the ribbon with local MP Nicky Wagner at the Ao Tawhiti Discovery campus in Christchurch.

La Découverte president Sonia Chaker, representatives of Ao Tawhiti and the co-president of Frenz School Inc Celine Gilbert also spoke at the opening on Wednesday, February 22.

The Ambassador acknowledged the contributions of Ao Tawhiti, FRENZ, and families behind La Découverte.

"It takes a lot of energy and vision to set up such a programme."

The Ambassador emphasised the educational benefits of early exposure to bilingualism and cross-cultural activities, adding the programme would be an asset for Ao Tawhiti.

"I have no doubt this program will grow alongside the French community in Canterbury."

"It is somehow a continuation of the history of the French community in New Zealand, which started not far away from here, in Akaroa, 177 years ago."

The project

Called ’La Découverte’, it is the first French-English bilingual educational programme in New Zealand’s South Island. The programme is offered in a public school and follows the Frenz model which has been in place in Auckland for 23 years.
This project is possible through the support of a Christchurch parents’ committee, the financial assistance of members of the French Government and the partnership with the Frenz School Inc association and Ao Tawhiti school.


The programme’s objective is to support the children in their bilingual learning so they can read, write and speak fluently in both languages, particularly in French. It’s also an opportunity for the children to develop their cultural knowledge.

Ao Tawhiti (Unlimited Discovery) School

Ao Tawhiti is a non-zoned special character public school, which runs from years 1-13. It is divided in two: ‘Discovery’ is the primary section (years 1-6) and ‘Unlimited’ is the secondary section (years 7-13).

Programme structure

Like any other Ao Tawhiti pupils, the pupils in the bilingual programme are grouped in a multi-level class. The New Zealand programme is taught in French 60 per cent of the time (three days a week) and in English the rest of the time. The lessons taught in French are given by a teacher who speaks French fluently and the pupils rejoin their English-speaking classmates for lessons in English.

The team

Established in 2016 by Sonia Chaker, the Christchurch parents’ committee has seven members, including three teachers. The team is a sub-committee of Frenz and aims to support the school and the pupils who join the bilingual programme.

Dernière modification : 01/03/2017

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