In-person sessions conclude on N.B. French education overhaul
The New Brunswick government has heard loud criticism directly from parents and teachers about its planned changes to French education in English schools.
Education Minister Bill Hogan's final in-person public session on the topic was held Wednesday evening in Fredericton, following previous meetings in Saint John, Moncton, and Bathurst, N.B.
Initially organized as a “world café” format of discussions table-to-table, an open mic session was hastily added when parents in Moncton began shouting over Hogan's introductions.
Hotel conference rooms in Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton each had more than 300 people in attendance.
"We're having consultations because nothing at this point is written in stone," said Hogan Tuesday night in Saint John. "If it was written in stone it would be silly to have consultations."
Under the plan, kindergarten to Grade 1 students would spend half their school day taught in French and the other half in English.
The change, planned for September 2023, would end the French immersion program in Grade 1 where students currently spend 90 per cent of their day taught in French.
Parent Rudy Walters attended the Moncton meeting and spoke about one of their children currently in French immersion and another entering kindergarten this fall.
“It’s really hard to imagine knowing that one child will have those advantages,” said Walters, upset about the proposed changes.
Erin Schryer, an educator and literacy specialist, said the province's plan would hurt several English students who need more time developing skills in class.
"I really keep wondering if anyone who has worked on any of these proposals has reviewed the daily schedule of (kindergarten to Grade 2)," said Schryer, at the Saint John meeting. "How much time do you really have with K-2 children in a day, for focused, explicit, on-task instruction? Two hours? On a good day?"
Heather Hollett said the government's proposed plan would further hinder opportunities for teachers to instruct students at varying stages.
"If a one-size-fits-all approach is not acceptable within our individual classrooms, I do not see how a one-size-fits-all approach can be acceptable for all the people of our province," said Hollett, at the Fredericton meeting.
The provincial government says virtual consultation sessions on the plan are scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.
An online provincial government survey on the subject will close on Feb. 3.
Hogan said the final plan for French education in English schools would be made public by the spring.
With files from CTV’s Alyson Samson and Alana Pickrell
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