Home News A chorus of critics against the proposed reform of the French immersion school program in NB:

A chorus of critics against the proposed reform of the French immersion school program in NB:

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Fredericton – Educators and parents have gathered in Fredericton to make their voices heard against the New Brunswick government’s plan to overhaul the French immersion program in schools by the fall.

Fredericton – Educators and parents have gathered in Fredericton to make their voices heard against the New Brunswick government’s plan to overhaul the French immersion program in schools by the fall.

The government-led consultation of about 300 people at the Delta Hotel on Wednesday spanned about 90 minutes after 8:30 p.m.

Those present asked what evidence the government had of the shortcomings of France’s current leniency program that justified the reforms. They also demanded to know what data the county used to create the new program and asked if any changes were rushed after the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teacher Heather Howlett compared the government’s plan to demolish the entire house when only the kitchen needs updating.

“Instead of dismantling the system, I would suggest collecting data and investing resources…in education through more educational materials, behavioral mentors who support intervention, occupational therapists and speech therapists,” she told the audience.

The government says the aim of its reforms is to ensure that all graduates from the English-speaking sector have at least a “conversational level” of French. The province prides itself on being the only officially bilingual province in Canada but regrets that most of its English-speaking graduates do not speak French.

The proposed changes – which will be implemented in the fall – are proving controversial because they reduce the time spent learning French. The province’s current immersion program provides up to 90% of study time in French, while the new program devotes half a day to learning French and the other half to teaching French.English in subjects such as math, reading and writing.

Moira Boateng, who has children in the French immersion programme, said the government should stop reforming them. She said teachers and students have been through two years of COVID-19 and are still suffering from its effects.

“I feel like the system just needs to shut down and catch up,” Boetting said. “Teachers need renewal and children just need to feel connected.”

Howlett said she had “serious concerns” that the government did not appear to be allowing space for after-school activities. She said the school’s logistical realities made the government’s promise to teach pupils in French for half a day “ill conceived and untrue”.

“If 50% of the day is devoted to mathematics literacy and English language instruction and 50% of the day to French language instruction, where are subjects such as physical education, art and music?”

His statement drew applause and applause from the audience.

Education Secretary Bill Hogan kicked off the evening by telling the crowd that the purpose of the session was to assess whether the government was on the “right track”.

“At the end of the day, when we look at all the data we’ve collected, we make a decision,” he said. We will share this as soon as possible. »

Jeff Bristow, an engineer with children in the French immersion programme, wanted to know privately if the government had received support for the planned changes. Because he said that opposition to the idea of ​​conservatism was explicit and public.

He said, “If you come into the audience and say ‘the silent majority has spoken,’ I hope you have data to back that up.” The silent society does not appear to be the majority.

Hogan did not respond to reporters’ questions about the percentage of people who support the program.

“I’ve had a number of positive comments and emails from teachers. So yeah, I did.” We’ll put that into the rest of the data we have and draw conclusions. »

Chrissie Montgomery of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing New Brunswick said there is a shortage of interpreters and teachers for students with hearing problems. She said that children with hearing impairments should learn sign language before French or English, adding that the government’s plan will only increase confusion and frustration for these pupils.

She said many deaf students entering kindergarten were not properly trained to express their needs in French or English. “Are you going to switch them between an English class 50% of the time and a French class 50% of the time with no language?”

Donna McLaughlin, a board member of the Canadian Foundation for French Parents, said: “We haven’t seen the data yet to support your proposed plan. We haven’t seen the research you’re proposing. You haven’t mentioned who your experts are yet.”

Chris Collins, executive director of Parents of French Canada in New Brunswick, who participated in all the public consultations — in Bathurst, Moncton and St. John’s, said public reaction has been “extremely negative about the changes.”

“I can’t say I think they will be heard,” he said. “I can tell that I would like them to be heard.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 26, 2023.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


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