Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"My job isn't to make people of doctorates feel good" - Kelly Lamrock

This quote, from New Brunswick's education minister in today's Globe and Mail seems to confirm my worst fears about what is driving the decision to can early French immersion in New Brunswick. While Lamrock goes on to say that his job is to "look at reports, all the information, and make a decision on what's best for all kids. That's what I've done," his anti-intellectual bias seems pretty clear from his recent statements.

If Lamrock were indeed looking at "all the information" he'd see that there is a strong consensus in favour of early immersion as a better route to language fluency than late immersion, and certainly very little support for a complete absence of second language instruction prior to grade 5. He would also see that almost every study done of English-language competencies of French immersion students shows that these students perform as well, if not better, than their counter-parts in the English-only stream once they reach Grade 4 (English is usually not introduced as a school subject in early immersion until after the first two years). So, much as opponents of immersion and bilingualism may rail against the supposed detrimental effects that immersion has on first language competencies, their grievances simply aren't borne out by the research!

And one more thing - Mr. Lamrock is wrong. His job is to make people with doctorates feel good. Otherwise, New Brunswick's universities and economy will continue to deteriorate. His government will have a hard time maintaining a stable university system if educated parents are increasingly fleeing the province in droves. It is hard enough to retain university-educated New Brunswickers. His decision is going to make things worse.

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At 7:32 pm, Anonymous  said...

We do need people with Masters Degrees and PHd's driving taxi cabs in Toronto.

Ever since McKenna, New Brunswick governments have done their best to make the province the India call centre of Canada.

New Brunswick can offer all the low wage jobs to compete against the rest of Canada. Unfortunately, there are other places around the world that offer less. New Brunswick needs to go high-knowledge if it wants to compete. The loss of Early French Immersion won't help.

I will agree that there are problems with the core French programs across Canada. Students lack a sense of purpose and achievement when they take core French.

I have found when I have supply taught core French classes in Ontario (my French is not that good) that students don't learn about Francophone culture in Canada, France, and other places in the world. They don't get to practice their French outside of class. The Canadian Parents for French are more concerned about their own children in French Immersion classes that they do not advocate strong enough for students taking core French. These students are the majority that take French.

If anyone has any thoughts on how to improve the core French program, I would like to read them.

At 7:39 pm, Blogger Matt said...

Certainly more time per day devoted to core French would be a good start. Every Commissioner of Official Languages since Keith Spicer has pointed out that education experts all agree that the limited time devoted to core French produces frustration among most students - it certainly did for most of my classmates when I was in core French.

Unfortunately, most provinces aren't willing to change their curriculum in this way. Perhaps it's the fact that second (and third) language learning isn't viewed as a core area, like maths and sciences, but as an add-on comparable to music and art. Until those sorts of attitudes are shaken, it will be hard to make real improvements to core.


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