Friday, April 11, 2008

New Brunswick: In danger of 'loosing' our language

Published Friday April 11th, 2008
Appeared on page A5

The importance of language rights is grounded in the essential role that language plays in human existence, development and dignity... language bridges the gap between isolation and community.

-Retiring Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache


We live in the only bilingual province in Canada. Living in a bilingual province is, however, a costly endeavour. Eliminating or changing the foundation of its structure is perhaps even more costly. I thought of this as I reflected upon the last study that dealt with the possible restructuring of French immersion in New Brunswick. In April of 2006, the provincial government released a report entitled the Quality Learning in French Second Language in New Brunswick. Its authors, including Sally Rehorick, noted,
"We are recommending a phased-in implementation of intensive French across all districts as the main enhancement of the core French programme. We caution, however, that intensive French is untested and is unresearched over the longer term...."

As a public document, the report might as well have entered the Witness Protection Programme. My copy, as it happens, arrived in a brown envelope last fall with a note referring to it as a "leaked report."


Accordingly, the UNB report recommends expanding second language immersion (particularly EFI) in education as a means of increasing the level of language proficiency for New Brunswick students. In order to reach this end, the UNB researchers (three professors and a faculty associate) recommended putting more resources into both French immersion streams but, more importantly, also recommended increasing staffing levels for the delivery of the intensive French programme.


More to the point, however, the Rehorick report clearly stated that the best way to achieve the provincial target for bilingualism was to have more second language immersion, not less.

There is no denying that New Brunswick's education system needs urgent revamping, but in making French Immersion the scapegoat for what truly ails our education system, the Liberals may be playing into a system of bigotry that we had all hopefully shut the door upon decades ago. When all is said and done, we may all end up being "Loosers."

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