Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Parents' group blasts immersion report


FREDERICTON - Canadian Parents for French came out swinging Monday in response to a report by Doug Willms laying out the case for universal French instruction.

Willms, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy, argues in the document that the elimination of early immersion will substantially boost student performance by ending the practice of streaming lower-ability children into core French classrooms.

He also told the Telegraph-Journal in an editorial board meeting last week that the province should have gone further with its French second-language reforms, by eliminating the option of late immersion and promoting a universal program all the way through to high school.

Alison Ménard, president of CPF's New Brunswick branch, called the document "a great muddying of the waters," rejecting Willms's suggestion that proponents of early immersion have "trivialized" the streaming issue.

"That is absolutely not a reflection of reality," Ménard said.

"Proponents of FSL programming have clearly said we need to find solutions to the streaming problem.

"It is a systemic, administrative problem" that could have been addressed by boosting resources for early immersion, she noted.

According to Joseph Dicks, director of the Second Language Research Institute of Canada at the University of New Brunswick, Willms's support for Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's reforms is misplaced.

"What's being proposed now is not a universal system," Dicks said, pointing out that the same kind of streaming will still occur - just in Grade 6 instead of 1. And Grade 6 is a more difficult entry point for low-ability students who may have a tough time picking up a second language, he added.

But moving to a fully unstreamed system is not the answer either, Dicks said.

"I like the idea of having some choice for parents within the system," he said.

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