Thursday, April 10, 2008

'Go West' to learn about immersion

Published Thursday April 10th, 2008
Appeared on page A1

A language expert says New Brunswick has a lot to learn from Edmonton schools when it comes to effectively teaching French.

"Research proves the earlier a child starts a second language, the better,'' said Fred Genesee, an expert in second language acquisition at McGill University in Montreal. "Edmonton schools have really taken that to heart. Their students are doing extremely well in French and many even opt for other languages." Edmonton public schools offer an intensive French immersion program that starts in kindergarten.


Genesee said he understands changes were needed in New Brunswick, but said he's not certain cutting early immersion was the way to go. "The solutions the government has opted for may not solve the problems in New Brunswick," he said. "Not only that, but it sends the unfortunate message that they don't value French as much as they do English in New Brunswick."


Genesee believes New Brunswick would see similar success if it modeled a system after the Edmonton district. "A couple of French consultants, increased professional development and more opportunities for students outside the classroom, would make a big difference in New Brunswick," he said. "Why not follow the example of those who have successful French graduates and a system that works well for all students?

"I don't see how cutting a program that's had such success in other provinces makes sense."

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