New Brunswick

Early French immersion reform faces more delays

The Canadian Parents for French is disappointed the Gallant government is still refusing to change the entry point for early French immersion.

Canadian Parents for French say the group is disappointed the Grade 1 entry point hasn't been restored

Education Minister Serge Rousselle said his department needs more time to put in place changes to the early French immersion program. (CBC)

The Canadian Parents for French is disappointed the Gallant government is still refusing to change the entry point for early French immersion.

The Liberals campaigned in 2014 to restore the Grade 1 early entry point, but after two years the Department of Education is still balking at switching it from Grade 3.

Parents hoping for a return to an earlier entry point for French Immersion this fall will have to wait. 7:08

Kurt Inder, a spokesperson for the Canadian Parents for French, said he fully expects the provincial government will make the change in the fall of 2017 and he just hopes it will be the beginning of a stable program.

"I think that the establishment of an entry point for French immersion or for any other program for that matter has a domino effect," he said.

"It would certainly be more consistent and certainly be more helpful, I think, if the government or the Department of Education were to establish an entry point at one level, get it done, and stick with the plan."

He said parents are "very disappointed" by this latest delay.

Premier Brian Gallant promised in April 2014 that he would lower the entry point to Grade 1. The commitment was cemented when it appeared in the Liberal party's 2014 election platform, but a firm timeline for when the promise would be kept, was never given.

Now Education Minister Serge Rousselle said in a statement that his department still needs more time to research and design a new second language learning program.

"Our government is committed to reinstating, within its first mandate, the Grade 1 entry point for French Immersion," he said.

"Department staff are currently working to build a robust program of the highest quality that will meet the needs of New Brunswick's students. This includes thorough research into current best practices in second language learning, as well as new program design."

The Canadian Parents for French official said parents are "very disappointed" by the delay.  But Inder said he hopes the provincial government is using this extra time to come up with a solid program.

"I understand that changeovers, such as this, require some fine-tuning, it is going to require some research," he said.

"Education, like everything else, is in constant flux, it is in a state of evolution. I would hope, given that it is later, rather than sooner, I'm looking at September of 2017, I would hope that it will give the department of education ample time to come up with a very solid plan."

'Firm commitment' to reform

Inder said he has received a "firm commitment" from Rousselle and his education staff that the changes are coming.

The Grade 3 entry point was created in 2008 following the former Shawn Graham government's botched attempt to scrap early French immersion.

The former David Alward government appointed two previous education ministers, James Lockyer and Elvy Robichaud, to study the French immersion program.

Their report called for a return to the Grade 1 entry point but the Progressive Conservative government said in 2012 the department needed to review the report.

A CBC-Radio Canada poll released in September 2014 showed 58 per cent of New Brunswickers would like to see the entry point for French immersion in Grade 1 compared to 34 per cent who would like to see it in Grade 3.

with files from Information Morning Moncton

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