New Brunswick

New Brunswick asking for ideas on French second-language education

New Brunswick is turning to the public for input on redesigning how French is taught in anglophone schools. The consultation comes after a report recommending replacing French immersion with a program available to all students.

Department of Education plans a series of public input sessions

New Brunswick is planning public consultation sessions to ask for input on how French should be taught in anglophone schools. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

New Brunswick is turning to the public for input on redesigning how French is taught in anglophone schools. 

The consultation comes after a report recommending replacing French immersion with a program available to all students. 

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the changes aim to make opportunities more "equitable" across the province and improve conversational skills.

"The goal here is to increase the medium bar for everyone," he told reporters on Tuesday. "Because right now, there are huge numbers of folks in the province who don't have any access to immersion at all,

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will begin a series of public sessions, focus groups and other events to gather feedback this fall. It's also inviting people to send in written submissions until Nov. 30.

Th department said ideas that might be explored could include expanding local projects and the possibility of students taking university-level French courses in high school.

As part of the province's review of the Official Languages Act, commissioners John McLaughlin and Yvette Finn drafted a report on second-language training. It says the current French-immersion model is "unconstructive" and creates two tiers within the school system.

Cardy said that division has created imbalances in the anglophone sector, negative impacts to classroom composition and lower student confidence.

He said another issue with the current model is that many students leave the program while in high school. 

"Taking a course, for example, in physics, when you know you're going to go to an English university, learning the terms in French is seen by a lot of students and parents as being an obstacle to getting a higher mark that might help scholarships," he said.

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the changes will make French second-language opportunities more equitable across the province. (Submitted by the Government of New Brunswick)

French immersion is currently not offered in 66 of the province's 205 anglophone schools and only about 40 per cent of anglophone students are enrolled. 

Cardy said in French-language instruction is currently "pretty minimal" and "basic" in some areas of New Brunswick.

"That's not fair, or right, or equitable in a province that's been officially bilingual for my entire lifetime," he said.

The province's changes also aim to improve spoken French skills for high school graduates.

Less than a third of Grade 10 students achieved conversational levels of French over the past three years, according to the Department of Education. 

In March, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development adopted 18 of 24 recommendations to improve second-language learning. 

Under the recommendations, the province's new minimum target for high school graduates is now based on the Common European Framework for Reference of Languages. The goal is B1, an intermediate conversational level on the globally recognized scale.

French immersion registration is proceeding as usual for the 2022-23 school year, with no changes announced so far.

The Department of Education's timeline shows design of the framework beginning in April 2023 with implementation between January and August 2024.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandre Silberman

Video journalist

Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: alexandre.silberman@cbc.ca

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