New Brunswick's plan to revise French Immersion sparks lively debate
MONCTON -- The New Brunswick government’s plan to change French immersion in the province is sparking a robust debate in both languages.
While the province says it’s not scrapping immersion, it is looking at changes, which some people believe go too far.
Education Minister Dominic Cardy says it's time to take an evidence-based approach, and will be launching a pilot project with about a dozen schools in September.
"We're asking experts from around the world, people in the province and across Canada, as well, to look at what has worked with our programs, what are some things we could do to enhance those programs, and that's what's going to go into the pilot," said Cardy.
The official opposition weighed in, saying they're in favour of improvements, but to leave the program as it is.
The French immersion entry point has changed three times in a decade.
"What we want with this French immersion program is to leave it in place, Grade 1 entry, as it stands, as our former Liberal government implemented," said Liberal MLA Rob McKee.
Advocates for French immersion say the program is vital, especially in a bilingual province.
"French immersion is 50 years old and, over time, has proven that it is one of the best ways to learn a language," said Dorothy White of the New Brunswick branch of Canadian Parents for French.
Cardy says part of the problem is a large number of New Brunswick Anglophones still can't access French immersion and that there's a shortage of French language teachers.
"So, we've got a problem with geography, that you're more likely to access French immersion in the cities and the countryside, we've got a problem with teaching capacity," Cardy said.
One thing everyone can agree on is their worry for French immersion at the high-school level.
"Where it could maybe have room for improvement is the secondary level, especially in grades 11 and 12, because this is where students seem to leave the program," White said.
The next step will be in the fall when the government assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current curriculum to see where there is room for improvement.