New Brunswick

Early French Immersion entry point remains, Carr says

The New Brunswick government will not move the early French immersion entry point for the upcoming school year, Education Minister Jody Carr announced on Tuesday.

Task force report recommends early entry point be moved to Grade 1

The New Brunswick government will not move the early French immersion entry point for the upcoming school year, Education Minister Jody Carr announced on Tuesday.

The Department of Education is reviewing a new report from the task force on Early French Immersion, which recommends moving the entry point to Grade 1.

But the report also suggested keeping the entry point at Grade 3 for the upcoming 2012-13 school year,  said Carr.

"There’s still much work to be done, but what needs to be communicated to parents is that the entry point for French Immersion will remain at Grade 3 for the 2012-13 school year. This is recommended by the task force and supported by the Ministerial Advisory Committee on the French Second Language Review," he said in a statement.

Carr said the report is still being studied and would not speculate beyond next year.

More research needed

He said the government won't rush to make a decision. More research is required to determine what impact such a change would have on students and the education system.

"The report recommends…to go back to Grade 1 entry point, but it also has a series of stipulations and recommendations to make a Grade 1 entry point to work at this point and we need to evaluate those," Carr told CBC News.

"We need to look at those for the best interest of the system, the capacity of the system, the costing," he said.

"Our commitment in the platform was to review the entry point. We've asked for that review, the task force report, series of recommendations, and now we'll take the time to look at those recommendations, to study them, to work with our advisory committee, to make sure any decisions that will be taken will be to improve French language for our students."

It's not enough to undo the previous government's controversial decision to change the entry level, Carr said. The Education department needs to find better ways to deliver French immersion to students in Grade 1 and Grade 2 before any changes can occur, he said.

Issue dates back to 2008

The task force to review the education program was launched last October and was led by former Education ministers Elvy Robichaud and James Lockyer.

The issue of early French immersion has been a hot political issue for several years.

The previous Liberal government announced in February 2008 the provincial government was cutting the early French immersion program in favour of a five-month intensive French program for all Grade 5 students.

Parents quickly mobilized against the decision and launched a lawsuit against the changes.

A New Brunswick judge ordered the provincial government to go back and consult the public on the plan in June.

By August, the Liberal government modified the early French immersion program after the consultation with parents and language and education experts.

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.

Further, the Department of Education introduced more French language and culture activities for all students in kindergarten and in their early grades.