Friday, March 28, 2008

Short Sighted Education Policy in New Brunswick will have Terrible Consequences!

"Two-tiered system" and a "segregated school system" already exist in Canada. New Brunswick is axing an early French Immersion program to end the "segregation" and "two-tiered system" because the (20% of NB students) students are excelling but the rest of students (80% who are in core-French) are falling behind and coming last in national test score. This short-sighted policy will have terrible consequences.

Some background:

Early French immersion beginning in Grade 1 has created a segregated school system in New Brunswick, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock told angry parents Thursday night — and that's why he's axing it.

Lamrock defended his plan in front of about 300 concerned parents and educators Thursday evening at a CBC townhall in Moncton, saying he had to think about the majority of children in elementary school who are not in French immersion and are doing poorly academically.

The minister blamed their lack of progress, in part, on the unusually high number of special needs children in the regular stream.

"Every kid who struggles winds up in core French. Too many kids with difficulties wind up in one class, none of them get the attention they deserve and, as a result, they fall through the cracks and we remain last in literacy," Lamrock said.

He said the 20 per cent of children who are enrolled French immersion beginning in Grade 1 are doing well academically, while the other 80 per cent in the regular system are lagging behind.

In fact, Lamrock said, students in the regular stream, with core French instruction, score the worst grades in Canada on national tests.

For more information and related articles about this click here

As a personal note, when growing up I was one of those kids in the 20% group. Initially I was in an English Catholic school from JK until grade 1. I have memories of leaving class and having to go for "gifted testing" and other tests because my teachers wanted me to skip a grade. See, I would finish my work so quickly, then talk to my peers, and end up "disrupting the class" (I have report cards with this wording.

When advanced students aren't challenged they could fail because they simply don't both trying. As a girl, I didn't mind doing extra work, and trying to stay quiet wasn't too dificult. But for boys, I believe this might be a different story. I have memories growing up with male friends who were really smart, but actually did poorly in school because they didn't try, even though if they put their mind to it, they could have done very well. But schools and the classroom setting are set up with girls in mind. Sitting still and quiet isn't a natural boy function. Our school system has dismissed this problem and created a new one. Increased diagnoses (primarily in boys) of ADD-type "disorders" which is what happened to my brother.

My mother did not want to me skip any grades. She wanted me to be at the top of my class, instead of just above average in the next grade up. Not to mention the social implications of being away from your friends, in a new cohort of students you don't really know. My teachers insisted we do something to challenge me in the classroom as disrupting other students certainly wasn't helping them learn. So I was place in French Immersion as a challenge. I changed schools for grade 2 and did very well. However, at the end of grade 2, I remember having go down and do more of that gifted testing again. Thankfully, this school had 3 other students in my grade like me, so I was in a gifted program.

While I did not remain in contact with these students, I've learned through Facebook that the four of us have become very successful. One is in med school, one is a nurse, one is an Engineer and well almost done school to embark on an exciting career in the Canadian Forces or Public Service.

So what to do? The problem is the mentality that inequality in education is a bad thing. Why should we lower the bar to the other students and not give the opportunities to excel? While yes, 80% is a large number of students falling behind; however, I suspect that there are other issues, other than this French Immersion program contributing to the problem of NB students coming last in national scores.

Also from my experience, I know that in high school, us Frenchies (French Immersion kids) thought we were smarter than the other students, in the regular English high school program. This sense of superiority was partly arrogance, but I did believe it had some merit. For example, we excelled in English classes, because we understood the structures of grammar from having done it over and over in French class. I did math all the way through from grade 2 to OAC calculus in French! Another example, not only was I in enrichment math, but I was doing it in another language! You may think that math is only formulas, symbols and numbers, so it wouldn't matter what language it was it, which is partly true; however, there are always word problems and vocabulary you need to know as well. Doing stuff in other languages than your mother tongue stimulates your brain in many different ways, and in effect, makes you smarter? Why would NB cut a program that will help some children advance?

Cutting early French Immersion in the one province that has two official languages is short sighted policy that will have serious consequences. Students entering French Immersion in grade 6 (instead of grade 1) will not be able to pick up the language as easily as they could have when they were younger. While I am not expert in linguistics, I know that the younger you expose a child to a new language, the easier it is for them to pick it up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. You're right in saying that the problem isn't the program, but rather the idea that inequality is a bad thing. We see this in many other places (health care for example).

Fri Mar 28, 12:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dark City said...

It sounds like New Brunswick is actively screwing these kids out of a future career in the Public Service.

Unilingualism is at best a glass ceiling and at worst a total bar to entry in the Public Service.

As a person who grew up in the gifted stream and early French Immersion I agree with your sentiments.

I haven't had to use French on a daily basis since exiting high school almost 15 years ago. However since I learned it starting in SK, I can still carry on a conversation in Parisien French when I have to and I can watch TV stations from France with out any difficulty.

Quebecois on the other hand...forget it.

Fri Mar 28, 12:48:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Spitfire said...


Thank you for your coments. Health care is indeed another example of a two-tiered reality no matter how many people deny that it's happened. However, I'm not so sure that a multi-tiered health care system is as comparable. It's a really complex issue, which I won't get into here, but education is for 15 or so years while health care is lifelong.

Dark City,

Thank you for your comment. I'm really happy I decided to stick with the immersion all the way through. I have so many doors open for me because of this, and I know if was definitely worth it. I am proud of my ability to speak both of our country's languages. Now back living in Ottawa I have much more opportunity to speak it. In other parts of the country, the only French radio/TV I can get is CBC, which of course is very one-sided in its perspective.

I didn't feel bilingual until I went on an exchange in a small town in Quebec, where very few people spoke English. I even drempt in French! No matter how many years of French Immersion I was in, being fully immersed where you're forced to communicate that way was a truly rewarding experience.

Thank you for sharing your comments.

Fri Mar 28, 01:41:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bilingualism is a very expensive flop. Canada will never truly be bilingual any more than the Quebec Nation will be.

Fri Mar 28, 02:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Dark City said...


You've actually hit the nail on the head when it comes to bilingualism. When you had no choice but to speak French your ability went up.

The problem for English Canada is that there is no general immersion at all for French. I live in Ottawa but my entire day, every day, is all in English. There is no regular opportunity for me to speak French.

Francophones, on the other hand, speak in French at home and English everywhere else if they live outside Quebec. Since they use both languages daily they have a tremendous advantage when it comes to bilingual jobs - especially when it comes to the Public Service.

Early French immersion is really the only way to give Anglophones a fighting chance at jobs that require bilingualism.

The thing that really ticks me off is Quebec's demand of bilingualism everywhere except Quebec. Imagine the outrage if Ontario implemented the English equivalent of Bill 101.

Fri Mar 28, 03:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Justin said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your post, as a "frenchie" in an anglophone province I can relate. You describe very well both the challenges of being a gifted student and also the benefits bilingualism can have.

Thanks for the post.

Sun Mar 30, 12:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Spitfire said...


True, bilingualism is extremely expensive. And I agree our our country is too big to be completely bilingual, especially with how most of the French speaking people live (and choose to stay) in la belle province. However, because Canada severely lacks culture outside hockey, winters, anti-Americanism and health care (all of which are socialized ideals of our culture), the French and Aboriginal people give our country culture outside our British roots which goes back to our roots before multiculturalism (another manufactured cultural ideal) came to Canada.

Dark City,

In my place of work (federal crown corp) I have the opportunity to speak French with my colleagues, who are also bilingual (about 50% franco and 50% anglophones). Agreed that us anglos really have no fighting chance without the province providing us early immersion programs. I also agree about what ticks you off about Quebec as well.


Thanks for your comment.

Mon Mar 31, 10:55:00 AM EDT  
Blogger HammertimeGP said...

Sat Apr 05, 06:44:00 PM EDT  

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