End of an Era

Harold Jarche, Weblog, Mar 28, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Debate is raging here in New Brunswick as the provincial government has chosen to scrap early French immersion and to replace with an intensive program starting in grade 5. I have mixed feelings. Early French immersion is a good thing, no doubt. But so-called "core French" is a bad thing - core French (a.k.a. French class) is what I took for twelve years without ever learning the language. And core French is what 80 percent of New Brunswick's English school population receives. In a bilingual province, every student should receive the government's best effort to teach a second language. Which is what I think the government is trying to do with the intensive French program. Now Harold Jarche may rail against introducing an "industrial school system", but I think it is that either with or without early French immersion. And I think we can move away from industrial style school while at the same time promoting literacy in both language. Finally - in response to the many comments I've heard over the last few weeks that "some people just can't learn second languages," I would observe that the French students in this province almost uniformly manage to learn both English and French - and they're not that much smarter than their English counterparts, are they? Anyhow - would I start intensive language learning earlier than Grade 5? Probably. Would I abandon it entirely in order to allow 20 percent can start earlier if they want to? No.
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