Friday, March 14, 2008

Au revoir to Early Immersion says Lamrock

I don't think emotional is the best way to describe the debate over enhancing our education system. Parents are passionate about their children's education. I know I am and so is my wife -who happens to be a teacher by the way. But something had to be done about the low achievements in French proficiency levels and improving our overall education system.

Admittedly, being a part of this decision was difficult for me. I have a daughter in grade 1 early immersion and one in kindergarten that was expected to begin next year. That will not happen now. She will begin learning French in grade 5. I am comfortable with this decision made by our government and as a parent I am satisfied that her opportunities to achieve bilingualism will not be tarnished in 4 years. Neither my wife or I speak French but we both feel that if our girls are to improve their abilities to obtain employment in our Province then they must learn. After all we are the only officially bilingual province in Canada.

Ask any educator about their thoughts of government's decision and you will get an answer. I have yet to meet a teacher that sits on the fence. They are either favourable or vehemently against the following findings:

The report found approximately 91 per cent of the 1,500 or so students who started early immersion in 1995 had dropped out of the program by the time they reached high school.

The study also found that only 0.68 per cent of the high school students that graduated in 2006 after completing the core program had reached the provincial objectives of intermediate oral proficiency.

I should note this problem is only unique to New Brunswick. These results are not the same in any other Province. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to the reasons. I certainly have my own personal view. However, I will say that I will continue to stand behind my colleagues for making tough decisions when they are ostensibly for the right reasons. Sometimes they may not be the most politically popular, but I'd rather campaign on making a decision to provide the best educational opportunities for children in our Province versus doing nothing to improve their chances to succeed!




Rob said...

If the problems with the French Immersion program are unique to New Brunswick, why are we not exploring ways to improve the program? If a province like British Columbia, with trace amounts of French, can run an Early French Immersion program, what does that tell us about New Brunswick, the country's only bilingual province? Of course, after reading the Mount A/UNBSJ statistical analysis of the FSL report, I'd take all stats from the FSL report with a grain of salt.

What really irks me is that after the report was released, Minister Lamrock said he would consult with stakeholders about his decision. Two weeks later, the program is killed off. That was some consultation period. The ink was barely dry on the report before the Government acted on its findings.

We're the bottom of the barrel when it comes to education in this country. I don't see how accepting the results of a single report, which flies against the findings of dozens of others, will improve our lot.

As an aside, as a New Brunswicker, this blog provides a real service. It's great to hear about government decisions straight from the horse's mouth, and have some form of feedback. Thank you.

mikel said...

I have an idea to improve the literacy rates as well- STOP teaching reading until the fifth grade.

T.J. Burke said...

Points well taken Rob. It's a difficult decision for all to understand but the numbers warrant the decision. People have been saying that streaming has been a problem for 10 years and people have known that 80% of kids are outside and immersion and not learning any French. The report didn't say anything new. The only thing new is that we have a Minister of Education willing to make a decision.

Rob said...

But, Mister Minister, your colleague is acting on a report that is demonstrably flawed. I'd prefer that any government choose action over paralysis through analysis. However, when the action is taken on a faulty premise, it is equally dangerous.

Spinks said...

The Liberals have made plenty of gaffes since coming into office in 2006 but this isn't one of them. Governments get elected to sometimes have to make tough decisions. The slings and arrows are going to fly but seeing someone actually a) recognize what has been a long stading problem and b) do something about it is refreshing.

Charles LeBlanc said...

They don't give a damn about kids.

Take a look at the way our kids are being drugged???

This blogger rest its case!!!!

NB taxpayer said...

TJ. I applaud Lamrock's reform decision not only on the grounds that it is a risky policy position to take, it is the right thing to do.

Although, as I pointed out on spinks' blog, I'm not sure how this would have been received, by the mainstream media, had it been tabled by a right-wing government (not that you guys aren't a little right wing sometimes) :)

Anyway, regardless, I applaud the decision. Let's hope the Tories, NDP and special interests don't play petty politics with a good policy choice. Only time will tell, I guess.

NB taxpayer said...

Neither my wife or I speak French but we both feel that if our girls are to improve their abilities to obtain employment in our Province then they must learn. After all we are the only officially bilingual province in Canada.

Oh, and one more thing. When you say "learn" TJ, do you mean in a generic sense so that your two daughters can be competitive globally, or do you mean competitive in a more local sense?

The reason I say this is because I don't know too many ppl speaking french in high executive positions in financial centres (Toronto, Vancouver, New York and Calgary) or with high level positions in technological clusters (Ottawa, San Jose, India and San Francisco). Don't get me wrong, your daughters are probably clever enough to do both, but maybe not all are. And maybe it is irresponsible to believe that they should.

I guess what I'm saying is, shouldn't our education system be positioning itself more for a wider global market than a smaller less robust local model?? We live in a global community after all.

Furthermore, if positioning ourselves as a bilingual province is such a priority (and an advantage), why is it that very few immigrants, mostly from french speaking countries, seldom emigrate to New Brunswick in the past 30 yrs? Is that not an abominable incrimination of the status quo as it currently stands?

Moreover, it is common knowledge that in the next five years, immigration will account for 100% of net labour force growth in Canada.

This is concerning, especially since province’s that have a larger number of people born within, like the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, tend to have weaker economies as opposed to those stronger ecomomies who rely more heavily on an outside influx of immigrants. [i.e. Toronto, Calgary, and Ottawa] And those stats were before NL renegotiated its offshore royalties as they are now on pace to be a "have" province within months.

With recent statistics showing that we are now falling behind many other jurisdictions in a plethora of categories, isn't it a must that we position ourselves for the future rather then cling to the past?

mikel said...

It's a pretty bad sign when the only defense of a policy is 'at least SOMETHING is getting done', and 'its the right thing to do' (I don't need to comment that NBT's second post pretty much contradicts his first).

There is a VERY frightening aspect to this policy that nobody has mentioned, here or in the paper. And that is the basic assumption in this policy (and just about any policy) that there is ONLY one way that children learn another language (or anything for that matter).

The 'assumption' (based on that one study) is that kids in intensive grade five french seem to do better than what can be called a control group (or just the average).

Here's where another basic failure of education comes out in the ADULTS-namely, when you change TWO variables in an experiment then you can't expect the same results. So, for example, IF kids do better after intensive grade five french, how is it known that the first four grades didn't provide the groundwork to complete grade five?

If you change the variables, namely take away the early immersion, the previous statistics that the whole thing is based on are no longer valid. As Rob says, if you have a bad experimental design, then the outcome certainly isn't going to be what is expected.

It's not a big surprise that it's mostly people who want french out of the equation completely that are cheering this. I've yet to see ONE rationale behind it. As experts point out, if you are going to do intensive french, do it in kindergarten and grades one and two and three. THAT is also 'doing something' and making 'tough decisions'. The difference is that more people would actually LIKE that decision because it at least makes sense.

D Stewart said...

It seems obvious that the system as it now stands does not work. It did not work for me all those many years ago and sadly the core program failed my own children. They successfully completed the required courses all though their educational tenure only to end up with at best marginally improved skills. I have to tell you regardless of what some seem to think, the core program has always been at best simply a way to pay lip service to the mantra that this is a bilingual province. So yes, we need things to change. However I find it hard to know if this is the right change. Have I missed the details or do we know yet what this will involve aside from the starting dates? How will the actual learning environment change? What will be done differently in both core and immersion. Why have a "core" program at all? What will be done to help retain what is taught? Frankly most students with English speaking parents rarely have the opportunity to use the language once the school day is over. (I believe this is by far the greatest reason for the failure to retain a second language). I would like to believe this change will work. I would like to believe that finally we will have a viable method of producing a majority of bilingual citizens. But I just haven't seen enough information to think that will be the case.

detailer said...

I'm sorry to say that this will be the downfall of the Liberal government,whom I voted for, which I now regret.You have to immediately appoint a new minister of education,who is capable of fixing this mess.

detailer said...

TJ I'm sitting here listening to Lamrock on CBC, you must be proud to endorse this guy. You have just lost a life time liberal. Not all kids are capable of learning french, I know and my wife is french.Forcing everyone to take french in grade five is a human rights violation, is it not in the charter that we have the right to be educated in our first language?