French immersion and Core French in New Brunswick to be slashed
I'm shocked over the full extent of cuts to French-as-a-second-language instruction announced in New Brunswick today. Not only is the province doing away with its early immersion programs that commenced in Grade 1 (which had been hinted at earlier), but it's also slashing core French-as-a-second-language as well, delaying any introduction to the French language until Grade 5. Understandably, the official opposition and parents groups such as Canadian Parents for French are outraged. Canadian Parents for French New Brunswick has some very interesting and troubling observations about the report that led to this decision here.
I am gobsmacked by this decision. Virtually all of the studies that I've read on second-language acquisition stress the idea that it is best to start children as early as possible on their second language. But it appears that someone has managed to put a study on Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's desk that justifies his decision. I can't help but wonder if this is a cost-cutting measure disguised as a pedagogic decision. Itinerant FSL specialists who teach the core French courses represent an additional cost for school boards, who will now only have to pay for the regular teachers to give instruction in art and phys-ed. French immersion requires small class sizes, which again, can be expensive.
The stated rationale for the decision - that 91% of students who began French immersion had dropped out by the end of high school - doesn't necessarily strike me as a good reason to switch from early immersion to late immersion that starts in Grade 6. Rather, it suggests that there are more systemic problems with the manner in which the curriculum is structured. Indeed, one could just as easily make the case that large numbers of students drop math and science once they fulfill their high school requirements, and yet we aren't seeing proposals to remedy this situation by starting students in intensive math at the Grade 5 level.
There is something rotten in the province of New Brunswick, and it smacks of double-speak. Eliminating early exposure to the French language is highly unlikely to produce a province in which 70% of high school graduates speak fluent French. Quebec, after years of prohibiting English-as-a-second-language classes for francophone students prior to Grade 4, has finally returned to a system of starting second language classes in Grade 1. Why, one must ask, is New Brunswick heading in the other direction?
Update: It wasn't always like this in New Brunswick. For a bit of history on how the New Brunswick government once viewed French immersion, I've added this post.Recommend this Post