Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Brunswick's French as a Second Language program

New Brunswick's education minister, Kelly Lamrock, presented at a news conference his public consultation results on French as a Second Language programming in English language schools.

The revised FSL program will consist of the following elements:
  • Universal K-2: all children will learn together and will be introduced to French culture and language through a series of learning modules integrated into the curriculum (introduced to Grade 1 in January 2009, and to kindergarten and Grade 2 in the fall of 2009);
  • Grade 3 immersion: a program beginning in Grade 3 and built on an early immersion methodology, with the majority of instruction in French (available in September 2010);
  • English Prime: the non-immersion program for students in grades 3 through 5;
  • Pre-Intensive French: a component of Grade 4 in the English Prime program in which students will have 150 minutes per week of French in blocks of 50 to 60 minutes (available September 2009);
  • Intensive French: a component of Grade 5 in the English Prime program in which students will learn French through a literacy-based approach for about 70 per cent of their day over half the school year; the other half of the year will be conducted in English, with an accelerated curriculum and French instruction in concentrated blocks;
  • Grade 6 immersion: a program beginning in Grade 6 and built on the late immersion methodology with the majority of instruction in French;
  • English Prime with Post-Intensive French: the non-immersion program for students in grades 6 through 10 in which students take 200 minutes of French in two or three concentrated blocks each week in grades 6 through 8, and students will take one course per year in grades 9 and 10;
  • Blended High School: the three programs (Grade 3 immersion, Grade 6 immersion and English Prime) will conclude at the end of Grade 10 with an oral proficiency test in French; all students who score intermediate or higher will be eligible to take FSL courses in any available subject in grades 11 and 12. Students who do not attain intermediate proficiency at Grade 10 will have course options to improve their French, and may be retested.

Mr. Lamrock's suggests his (de-marketing) proposal will improve literacy results and French language proficiency in more students than just those who are currently taking the French Immersion program.

There will be two points of entry for French Immersion: grades three and six. I will guess that most families who are interested in French Immersion will place their children in French Immersion in grade-three. I believe few children will start in grade-six. I am guessing that some parents will try to enroll their children in Francophone schools for grades one and two. Others may try French Immersion private schooling for two years is there is such an option. Private tutoring may also work.

Mr. Lamrock talked about his desire to see children together in the early grades so that all children can benefit from de-streaming. Students who may have difficulties may benefit with the presence of regular students. I suggest that in a streamed class of twenty primary students, there may be six students with special needs. From a teacher's point of view, each of those students is equivalent to 2.5 students. That is the equivalent amount of time a teacher needs to spend with special needs students compared to regular students. For a teacher, the whole class is equivalent to 29 students. If the number of special needs students gets reduced to four in a streamed class, then that teacher will be teaching an equivalent of 26 students. The teacher can spend a little more time with all the students.

Logistically, if New Brunswick's schools are under-served, then the grade one and two students who would have gone to a French Immersion school will now be going to a regular school that will be fully attended with all the classrooms used. Since the French Immersion schools may be under-serving the school community because of the lack of grade one and two classes, some of those schools can close down and merge with others thereby saving money for the provincial government.

Will Mr. Lamrock's improve French language learning for all students? Let's hope it does. I like how he calls French instruction in grade-four pre-intensive French. I would call that Core French instruction for 150 minutes per week. Mr. Lamrock hope that students in the regular classes will achieve intermediate French by the end of high school. Those in French Immersion will perform at an advanced level. I rate the intermediate level as a B1 or B2 on the European Language Portfolio scale. The advanced level would be at C1.

I will agree with Mr. Lamrock and describe the performance of students learning French in Core French classes as abysmal. Most of these students are exposed to French for only forty minutes within the classroom. Outside, it's all English. As a sidenote, I am not fond of the text booklets that students use such as Acti-vie. There is very little cultural insight presented in these booklets. The layout seems very generic. I don't get a sense that students have ownership with these booklets. That's just a pet-peeve of mine. Students need a sense of ownership in the Core French language program. The need to communicate and feel successful. One good program that I have heard is AIM that gets students to communicate using gestures. Students and their parents need to know that if they complete French by the end of secondary school that they will be able to communicate independently and functionally in French. Core French students also need opportunities to be exposed to French outside the classroom. These opportunities should not be just limited for French Immersion students.

The irony with discussion about streaming and de-streaming is that in Alberta, the public school boards in Calgary and Edmonton offer many different kinds of programs such as French Immersion, International Languages, and gender based schooling. There are other programs. The results are that their students perform better than those in New Brunswick. Schools are tailored to the students--not the other way around.

Someday, I hope students in New Brunswick and Ontario will be able to learn other languages starting in elementary school. Students can start French in the early grades. In grade-seven, they can start learning another language such as German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Korean for example. Let's broaden our horizons. Let's include French and other languages together.

4 comments:

bluesky said...

A great site for ESL students is AIDtoCHILDREN.com.

AIDtoCHILDREN.com is a dual-purpose site for building an English vocabulary and raising money for under privileged children in the most impoverished places around the world.

Check it out at http://www.aidtochildren.com

bluesky said...

A great site for ESL students is AIDtoCHILDREN.com.

AIDtoCHILDREN.com is a dual-purpose site for building an English vocabulary and raising money for under privileged children in the most impoverished places around the world.

Check it out at http://www.aidtochildren.com

lauran said...

In my opinion this is really very nice and informative post. This post really provide good information for ESL students.
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Skinny Dipper said...

Excuse my late replies. Thanks for commenting, Bluesky and Lauran.