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Provincial government seeking feedback on French immersion in New Brunswick

The provincial government is seeking input from parents, teachers and the public on the French Immersion program in New Brunswick.
The provincial government is seeking input from parents, teachers and the public on the French Immersion program in New Brunswick. - Contributed

Education Minister says the program faces substantial challenges

FREDERICTON, N.B. —

The provincial government is asking parents, teachers and the public for feedback on how to address serious concerns that have been raised about the French immersion program in New Brunswick.

“Our government is committed to taking action to ensure we graduate more bilingual students,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy. “However, there are substantial challenges facing the system. For example, we do not have enough qualified teachers to deliver French immersion.”

A brief survey allows the public to evaluate the current French immersion program.

Cardy says the ongoing implementation of the program, and the Grade 1 entry point, has created some challenges, which include:

  • A performance audit by the auditor general last December identified a shortage of qualified French immersion teachers as a serious challenge in the education system. At the Grades 1 and 2 levels, 41 per cent of teachers did not have the proficiency required to teach in the program.
  • New Brunswick, like other provinces and territories, is experiencing a shortage of French-speaking teachers. According to a recent study by the federal Official Languages Commissioner, this is not expected to improve in the immediate future.
  • Twenty per cent of qualified French immersion teachers are 50-years-old or older and will soon be eligible for retirement. This means the shortage of French teachers is likely to get worse.
  • The auditor general’s report indicated that 93 per cent of anglophone sector students on personalized learning plans are in the English prime program. Data from the department shows that 97 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 2 students on these plans are in the English prime program; three per cent are in the French immersion program.

Given the concerns about the program’s sustainability and the quality of education students are currently receiving, the French Immersion entry point will be part of the review.

“The early years of public education are a critical period for language, literacy, numeracy and social skill development,” said Cardy. “In order to create a world-class education system that inspires and innovates, this government is committed to ensuring that all New Brunswick children have an equal opportunity to become bilingual.

“The council of District Education Council chairs welcomes the government’s review of the French immersion program,” said Robert Fowler, chair of the Anglophone South school district education council and chair of the anglophone provincial council of district education council chairs. “We need to look at all aspects of French immersion with a view to developing the best program we can for our students going forward. We support the consultation process and look forward to a meaningful discussion on the issues.”

The government will be looking at best practices nationally and internationally to work towards the ultimate goal of improving the education system and giving all students the opportunity to graduate with the ability to speak conversationally in both official languages. It allows people to evaluate the current French immersion program and to share their thoughts on its long-term sustainability. People are asked to submit their surveys, along with additional comments and questions, by March 31.

Feedback may be submitted through the provincial government’s consultation website or by emailing consultation.eecd-edpe@gnb.ca.

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