Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lamrock to the Globe: "French Immurshun is why our kidz kant reed gud"

The Globe and Mail ran an editorial over the weekend which was highly critical of New Brunswick's decision to cancel early French immersion. Kelly Lamrock replies in a Letter to the Editor (possibly behind the subscribers wall).

Among other preposterous claims, Lamrock states that "Early immersion teaches too few children and those who struggle with or don't take immersion wind up in the same class. This is called "streaming" and we've paid the price with last-in-Canada literacy scores."

I've already noted the fact that one solution to this problem is to actually devote resources to helping special needs children in immersion programs. Another would be to actually implement the government's own rules that state that immersion classes are supposed to be comparable in size to other classes in the school boards.

But the bigger issue is this. Shawn Graham and the Liberals campaigned in the last election on promises to improve literacy scores in the province, which the OECD has found to be among the lowest in the country. Statistics Canada produced similar results.

But here are a few problems with Lamrock's argument. Alberta has one of the highest rates of literacy and one of the best arrays of immersion programs in the country. In fact, French immersion is offered in every province in the country. So how, exactly, are we supposed to believe that French immersion is the bogeyman of literacy?

Secondly, Lamrock's plan calls for intensive French in Grade 5, and then giving parents the option of putting their children into late immersion. Won't this also produce the "streaming" effect that Lamrock fears? Does he think that a full 70% of anglophone parents will opt for immersion to reach his targets for bilingualism?

Finally, I wonder if Kelly Lamrock is fully aware of how much money his government receives from the federal government under the Official Languages in Education Program, which is tied to enrollments in programs such as French immersion. New Brunswick's Action Plan certainly doesn't seem to say anything about slashing immersion. Of course, that was the Lord government who negotiated this agreement - one wonders how federal officials will respond to the scorched earth approach proposed by Lamrock.

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At 9:31 am, Anonymous Matthieu said...

As a francophone living in New Brunswick and interested in language policy and social bilingualism, I am shocked at Lamrock's decision. I find that immersion for Anglophones was one of the ways to build bridges between the two communities. Symbolically, early immersion means something: it's part of a larger "projet social collectif."

And he's a stubborn man to boot. He seems to be determined to implement his reform, even in the face of mounting opposition. Décourageant...

At 7:54 am, Anonymous Matthieu said...

Yesterday, the director of the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities and the director the University's CRDE (Centre for research on education) held a press conference to challenge the results of the Croll-Lee report. They came to the same conclusion as Hamilton and Litvak; in other words, the report is deeply flawed. They are urging the Minister to have the report examined by experts. I wonder if he'll listen...


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