New Brunswick early French immersion issue hits campaign trail
The previous Liberal government announced in February 2008 they were cutting French immersion.
The issue of early French immersion has been a hot political issue in New Brunswick for several years and it has once again made its way to the campaign trail.
Liberal leader Brian Gallant said his party would once again look at changing the entry point for early French immersion.
The previous Liberal government announced in February 2008 it wanted to cut the early French immersion program in favour of a five-month intensive French program for all Grade 5 students.
A New Brunswick judge ordered the provincial government to go back and consult the public on the plan.
The Liberal government modified the early French immersion program after the consultation. Instead of scrapping early French immersion, the entry point was moved to Grade 3 from Grade 1.
French-language training is now available to all students in Grade 5.
At that time, the decision angered parent Lori Doucet who was worried about the government's decision.
“It's was a huge disappointment. Huge. Huge,” she said. “I'm kind of over the ticked off and disappointed. It's gone well with (daughter) Rachel, she's done well with it.”
A review launched by the Progressive Conservative government clearly recommended a Grade 1 start point. That recommendation was ignored because the PC government said the system was still reeling.
Now Gallant has brought up the issue once again.
Make sure that you know what you're doing and that they're not making guinea pigs of our kids again.- Lori Doucet
“We're certainly open to dialogue and discuss exactly the best way to accomplish this,” he said. “But you can be certain that a Liberal government will re-instate French Immersion to Grade 1."
It appears the issue it too volatile for the other parties, including the PC party's Craig Leonard. He says he got involved in politics because of his anger over the elimination of early immersion. His daughter ended up starting in Grade 3.
“We hear from teachers that changing the system again would put even more pressure on the students and the staff,” Leonard explains.
Leonard is running against Kelly Lamrock, former Liberal minister of education, who deferred comment to his new party, the New Democrats. They said it would cause too much upheaval right now.
The Green Party said the last thing it would do is jerk things back again, even though it believes Grade 1 is the better entry point.
The People's Alliance Party's Kris Austin says the entry point is irrelevant in his area. He found out early French Immersion wasn't being offered in Minto when he went to register his son, which is also a problem.
“It's only as good as is offered to our children,” he said.
Doucet said any new decision won't affect her children now, but she has advice for any future decisions no matter who makes them.
“If they're going to switch it back. Do it right,” she said. “Take your time. Make sure that you know what you're doing and that they're not making guinea pigs of our kids again."