New Brunswick

Ex-ministers review early French immersion program

Two former education ministers will be reviewing the entry point to the French immersion system, Education Minister Jody Carr announced on Wednesday.

Two former education ministers will be reviewing the entry point to the French immersion system, Education Minister Jody Carr announced on Wednesday.

Elvy Robichaud, a former Progressive Conservative education minister, and James Lockyer, a former Liberal education minister, were appointed to the four-person task force.

Public meetings

  • Nov. 1: Fredericton
  • Nov. 23: Oromocto
  • Nov. 28: Woodstock
  • Nov. 30: St. Stephen
  • Dec. 1: Saint John
  • Dec. 5: Sackville
  • Dec. 7: Bathurst
  • Dec. 8: Campbellton
  • Dec. 12: Moncton
  • Dec. 14: Miramichi

"The provincial government recognizes the importance of reviewing the entry point of early French immersion," Carr said in a statement.

"An inclusive public process that involves parents, teachers and interested organizations and allows for the free expression of opinions and concerns is imperative."

Public meetings will start on Nov. 1.

Robichaud said the review will only be successful with public consultation.

"I encourage parents to attend the public sessions and use the online forum. Parents play a significant role in the development of their children, and they deserve the chance to have their voices heard," Robichaud said in a statement.

The provincial government said the results of the consultation will help form the task force’s report to the provincial government, which is expected in early 2012. The changes could be in place for September 2012.

Paul-Émile Chiasson, an expert in second-language education at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, and Linda Lowther, a retired assistant deputy minister of education in the P.E.I. government, are also on the task force.

The provincial government has also set up a committee to advise the task force and the education minister.

The committee includes groups, such as the Canadian Parents for French, the New Brunswick Association for Community Living, the New Brunswick Home and School Association, school district staff and district education council members.

Reforms sparked debate in 2008

When the former Liberal government announced significant changes to the early French immersion program in 2008, it ignited a major backlash.

The Liberal government announced in February 2008 the province 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.

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.

French-language training is now available to all students in Grade 5.

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