Why New Brunswick.... why?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Usually I don't get involved in "political matters" here on Tales from the Arctic, but this one just rubs the wrong way.

Report recommends elimination of early French immersion in N.B.

Bilingual NB fails miserably when it comes to graduating bilingual students

Oh come on NB! What on Earth do you think you are doing? Eliminating the early FI program? What about the plan to make every graduate of the FI program fully bilingual? This sure ain't gonna happen now.

So why oh why are we moving away from the early FI program?? Because two researchers, concluded this (among other things): "early French immersion program, which currently begins in Grade 1, is not meeting its objectives and should be grandfathered out of the provincial education system".

Uh, Iets' stop and reflect here for a second. I went through the early FI program. I didn't drop out of it, I excelled in all of my classes (and even took all of my Math and a couple of Science courses in French in high school), learned a second language, graduated from the FI program .... and then went on and took a four year BA in French linguistics and literature. Now, mind you, I also had tons of parental language support at home too as my parents both spoke French.

Oh, and here is another no-brainer: "Currently, the core French curriculum is a non-immersion program that makes French a mandatory subject for students in Grade 1 to 10 and an elective subject in their upper high school years. About 75 per cent of all New Brunswick students participate in that program". And the other 25 per cent is enrolled in the early FI program right?

And let's also stop and think about the number of students that continue their French studies in high school. For students enrolled in the Core program, they only have to take it until grade 10. THERE ARE NO OTHER FRENCH REQUIREMENTS PER GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS.

What about students enrolled in the early immersion program? Most of us have a couple of options:
1. Take one French requirement and never take another French class
2. Take three years of FILA
3. Take a certain number of courses (any where from 8-12) to get the FI graduation certificate

and then this all depends on the size of your school too - so not all students enrolled in the FI program are even eligible for the FI graduation certificate.

So, what can we do to improve the FI program?

1. Student and Parental comitment - both students and parents need to be comitted to the FI program You are there to learn a new language and culture. You are not there because FI classes typically have a smaller class size and less "problems"

2. Teaching resources - books, magazines, audio, movies, cultural events, anything that will increase and enhance the learning experience

3. Government support - support teachers in what they are doing with the FI program

4. Teachers enforce the "rules" - encourage your students to speak French, don't let them get away with talking in English during class time, make a "French only rule" in the classroom.

The FI program won't work on it's own, and it isn't contained in a bubble - EVERYONE - parents, teachers, administration and government - all need to support the program and work together.

And if it really costs +30k per student in FI and +367k per student in the core program ... the French teachers are way underpaid.


Mr. E said...

If students start learning French in grade-one, they will have more positive attitudes in learning French no matter which program they take. If they start later, their attitudes become negative.

I get the feeling that government desires for later FI has nothing to do with improving the quality of learning French, but rather to save costs.

I have supply taught in both FI and core French classes in Ontario. Students seem to have positive or neutral attitudes in learning French in FI classes. They are able to communicate at their grade levels. Core French students usually start in grade four in Ontario. Their attitudes are generally negative in learning French. By the time they are in grade eight, they still have a difficult time speaking a simple spontaneous sentence. Why would they want to take French until grade twelve knowing that they won't even become functionally bilingual?

Kennie said...

Good point Mr. E.

I know back in NB, students (if I remember correctly), do start taking core classes starting in grade 1 (but it might be grade 4)- where the receive 2 or 3 40 minute classes per week. And this continues on until grade 10, where they receive one whole semester of 1 75 min class per day.

In the past, in NB we had quite a strange set up for "entry" into the FI program. Some school districts had early immersion, starting in grade 1, others had the entry point at grade 4. Then there was also late entry in either grade 6 or 7. By the time all of us made it to high school, we were all combined into one class (multi-leveled, multi-attitude).

Is scrapping the current program and switching it to what is being proposed the best plan for French Immersion in New Brunswick. I think no.

And, hey, what about all of those students who decide not to take physics or visual arts? How much does it cost per student?

Spinks said...

The trouble is kennie, you're the exception not the rule. The current system is a failure, broken and requires a serious overhaul. I'm not convinced the political will is there to do it but change is needed.

Kennie said...


I don't disagree that change needs to happen, but I am wary of how the change will come about (or what they are planning to do) - this reminds me a lot of the changes that they did to the program in District 18 back in the mid 80's, where they scrapped the grade 1 entry, moved it to grade 4 and then six years later discovered that they did indeed make a major boo-boo and reverted back to the current system.

I just wonder if this is going to be an ongoing cycle, and what the fate of FI education is going to be in NB.