UNB’s Joseph Dicks says it’s time to restore an early entry point in French immersion
By Joseph Dicks, CBC News Posted: Sep 05, 2014 4:31 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 05, 2014 4:31 AM ET
New Brunswick is Canada’s only officially bilingual province. New Brunswick has the largest population of French speaking citizens outside Quebec. New Brunswick has a provincial official languages commissioner.
New Brunswick is the only province with no French second language programming for its youngest and most impressionable citizens: no French program for Kindergarten; no French program for grade 1; no French program for grade 2.
And for those who do not choose French immersion, no French program in grade 3 either. This does not make sense in either official language.
How did we get to this unfortunate state? Well, the answer is rather complex but it can be boiled down to one simplistic argument: According to its critics, early French immersion was poisoning the education system from Grades 1 to 3.
It was stealing away all the stronger students, leaving the English classes intellectually impoverished and overpopulated with students with learning difficulties.
The solution? Get rid of early French immersion, have all students together in Grades 1 and 2 and then have a choice for French immersion in Grade 3 instead.
This “universal English” program supposedly was preferable because all students could learn to read and write in English before they became streamed into different systems.
But, what are the chances that students who are experiencing reading or writing difficulties in English will enter the Grade 3 French immersion program? As one teacher commented to one of my graduate students researching this: “Why would anyone want to do that to their child?” So much for eliminating streaming.