New Brunswick Votes

Majority back early French immersion in Grade 1, poll finds

A majority of New Brunswickers would like to move the early French immersion entry point to Grade 1, according to a new CBC/Radio-Canada poll.

58% support a Grade 1 entry point for French immersion; 34% support a Grade 3 entry point

A majority of New Brunswickers would like to move the early French immersion entry point to Grade 1, according to a new CBC/Radio-Canada poll.

The grade that anglophone students can enter the French immersion program has become a contentious issue ever since the former Liberal government reformed the program.

A new poll says 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.

The former Liberal government faced a major backlash when then education minister Kelly Lamrock announced early French immersion would be scrapped and all students would enter the program in Grade 5.

That decision prompted protests and a lawsuit. Eventually, Lamrock backed down and the entry point was moved to Grade 3.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant has promised to restore the Grade 1 entry point. The other political parties have not committed to moving the entry point.

Last week, Joseph Dicks, an education professor at the University of New Brunswick and the director of the Second Language Research Institute of Canada, said in an op-ed written for CBC News the policy to move the entry point to Grade 3 is not working.

“We need a sound, stable, early entry program that provides access for students of a wide range of abilities and that supports learners who are experiencing difficulty,” Dicks wrote.

“New Brunswick should have an early entry (kindergarten or Grade 1) French immersion program, just as every other province and territory in Canada does.”

The Alward government appointed two former 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 in 2012 then education minister Jody Carr said the entry point would remain in Grade 3.

Carr said the entry point would not be changed until more work was done on finding better ways to deliver French immersion in Grade 1 and Grade 2.

Dicks said the program does not need any more studies.

Corporate Research Associates surveyed 800 people on the telephone between Aug. 19 and 31. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel McHardie

Digital senior producer

Daniel McHardie is the digital senior producer for CBC New Brunswick. He joined CBC.ca in 2008. He also co-hosts the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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