17 December 2016
The failure of French Immersion is not a topic that Canadians like to face, especially if you have children going to school & you are torn between whether to send them to FI or not. The fear of not doing the right thing paralyze most parents who know the pressure being put on them by the knowledge that there are advantages to being bilingual - the job opportunities are legion & the financial rewards are undeniable. A recent report from the Fraser Institute said that the difference between the pay level of the public sector & the private sector is 10.6%. So, faced with that knowledge, what can parents do but give in to the pressure? So parents start looking for the pros & the cons. A special article from the G&M article list the following:
My PROs list:
My CONs list:
The PROs won. The commentator said she had to move to where FI was accessible. How many parents can afford to do that? So the next best thing is to pressure the government to either spend more on creating more FI schools or turn more English schools into French schools. This can lead to problems that are bad for the country as Andrew Campbell pointed out on several occasions. One of Andrew's criticisms is that it creates ELITISM in the education system & hollows out the English school system as more & more resources are diverted to an educational system that puts emphasis on French. Significant quotes from Andrew's article in the G&M, 2013:
"The negative consequences of French Immersion programs for English track students are significant."
" The demand for French Immersion programs is increasingly influencing education policy and marginalizing students in English track classes."
"These developments should concern us all. Public education is an investment in our collective future. Supporting a French Immersion program that limits the educational potential of students is short sighted. Our education system must be organized to allow for the maximal growth of all students."
Our worry is that we are living in a mainly English-speaking world where the number of people speaking English is at least four times those speaking French. Even more important, just over 17% of Canadians speak French & most of them live in Quebec where English-speakers are legislated against on a continual basis. Education in the English language should be given far more attention as we compete on the world market & our children should not have to be pressured to become French speakers by an education system that focuses on a language that is 10th on the world's stage. Instead our focus should be on English & other more important disciplines like mathematics so that our graduates can become better scientists, economists, engineers & computers programmers, among other professions.
By this over-emphasis on the French language as the primary concern of the government, we are denying our English-speakers their rightful place as the majority in Canada & filling our halls of power with French-speakers, mostly from Quebec. One only has to look at the names of the senior public servants that run most of the government departments to realize that they are mostly French names, originating from Quebec. "Reversing the colonization of the English in Canada" is what a lot of people say. One of those people say it in a UTube video which I will attach at the end of this message. Keith is a very enthusiastic amateur historian & he has captured the essence of those events of history that created the country of Canada. I'm saving that valuable reminder for last.
Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser has spent the past 10 years promoting bilingualism across Canada. The former journalist is a Francophile who learned French in high school and perfected it by working in Quebec while in university. Even so, he ruefully admits even his grandson and granddaughter quit French immersion.
His grandson, he says, was interested in a robotics program, while his granddaughter was also interested in a program that wasn't available in immersion.
It's not an unusual problem. For many students interested in a specialized program, "that means dropping immersion," Fraser said.
French immersion in Canada is celebrating its 50th anniversary with some 378,000 students enrolled across the country and an additional 1.3 million in core French. That means half of all eligible Canadian students - outside Quebec, as numbers aren't available for the province - are learning French. But the program faces significant challenges as it looks ahead: inadequate resources, too few teachers who speak the language, and a view of the program as one more welcoming to upper-middle-class families and students without special needs.
It's so dire in British Columbia that the Senate official languages committee is studying French immersion access in the province. The B.C. study is delving deeper into the challenge following the committee's June, 2015 report on improving bilingualism among Canadian youth. (The committee expects to report next March.)
But B.C. is far from the only province trying to manage a growing demand for immersion. Fraser says it's simply where the problems with access are most acute.
"There is the most dramatic conflict between the desire on the part of parents and the paucity of available places," Fraser said in an interview with CTV News following his appearance at the Senate committee last month.
"Some of the school boards have reacted to the embarrassing sight of people lining up and staying up all night to get their children in immersion by doing a lottery system instead... That just hides the problem."
The program's benefits are clear: for many who wouldn't otherwise learn a second language, it can provide fluency. French immersion "has enriched the lives of millions of Canadians," Fraser wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed last summer, calling it "one of the most successful Canadian educational experiences available."
But while immersion remains a desirable program - increasingly so in several provinces - that popularity has led to growing pains despite the program's age. With more and more parents choosing to put their kids in French, critics say it's hollowing out English-language programs, taking away both students and resources from standard classes, but providing little benefit in return.
Looking for better schools
The argument goes like this. Most kids go into French immersion in kindergarten or Grade One, but some drop out over the years to pursue more specialized math and arts programs, because they change schools, or simply because they don't like it. Those with learning difficulties get streamed out of the program, and new Canadians already learning English as a second language don't go into immersion in the first place, so the classes end up being more homogenous. And, particularly in areas where parents have to line up for hours or days to get their kids into the program, the students tend to be from homes with higher incomes or with parents who put a high priority on education, experts say.
Further, kids go home to Anglo families and those in mixed-program schools spend recess on English-language playgrounds, so many who start in kindergarten graduate without being fluent. Meanwhile, elementary schools have to divert resources to staff French programs.
Andrew Campbell is one of the critics raising concerns about immersion. Campbell teaches in an elementary school in Brantford, Ont., and writes about education issues. He's not an immersion teacher, but says he's taught at dual-track schools (which offer both English and French streams). He first started thinking about immersion when his now-grown children were entering elementary school. One of the reasons he looked at French was to move his oldest child into a class where fewer children would have learning challenges.
He saw the same thinking from other parents when he taught in an area he describes as "a fairly well-to-do part of Toronto." Some of the children had a 45-minute bus ride every day to be in French immersion, he said.
"The parents were quite open about why they did this. It was because they wanted their kids in what they saw [as] a better school - a school that had more upwardly mobile peers and out of the school that was in the neighbourhood that they were living in because they wanted something better for their kids," Campbell said.
"I think we see that all across the country."
The elitism critique in particular frustrates Fraser.
"I get really indignant at the suggestion that immersion is an elitist program," Fraser said.
"Once you've got a certain diversity of skill, of ability in a classroom, the system then conspires to push all of the children who have manifested any kind of problematic behaviour or learning skills out of immersion, and then they turn around and criticize immersion as elitist."
Like Fraser, Nicole Thibault, national executive director of Canadian Parents for French, is a strong supporter of second-language programming. Thibault says one way to solve the elitism perception problem would be for school boards to put immersion programs in areas with mixed socio-economic levels.
"Often those schools are empty. If you think of an inner core of a city, the families move away from those areas and then you have overcrowding in the suburbs. And that's often where the parents are fighting for a French immersion program," she said.
Putting French immersion in a city's core would draw students from crowded schools while benefiting students whose parents may not be advocating for special programming, Thibault said.
'People want to make the right decisions'
As for the idea too many kids quit, Thibault says attrition isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it's simply because the child moves to a school where it isn't offered (say, from an elementary school with immersion to a junior high without). In other cases, the students are motivated and finish their French credits early, or, like with Fraser's grandchildren, they decide to drop out to pursue specialized programs.
"If the person taking the course is satisfied, then it's not a failure of the program," Thibault said. "They're just making a different choice. And everybody's level of what they want for bilingualism is different based on their future plans, whether it's career or if they plan on travelling. Not everyone's goal in life is to be fluently bilingual."
At the same time, enrolling kids in immersion gives them a substantially better chance of learning a second language. Once they graduate, it's up to them to keep it up.
In his op-ed, Fraser said critics have unrealistic expectations for immersion. He says it's not intended to give grads the fluency of a native speaker.
"What immersion does provide is an important building block on which graduates can develop their language skills. Language proficiency is both an intellectual and a physical activity; without practice, it diminishes dramatically," Fraser wrote.
Campbell says he isn't opposed to French immersion - he just wants Canadians to think more about it and how it's changing the educational system. In Ottawa, for example, 2015 was the first fall that saw more students enrolled in early French immersion than in English in the English public system, the Ottawa Citizen reported last spring.
"People want to make the right decisions for their kids," Campbell said.
"I'm not criticizing anybody's decisions that they make about their parenting. What I'm saying is we have a program here that is changing the face of our educational system and we don't know a lot about it, we aren't asking a lot of questions about, and we need to start doing that."
While Thibault brags that her daughters are perfectly bilingual, Campbell says none of his three kids - who are 18, 20 and 22 - speak a second language now. Their mother learned French mainly in university by living in Quebec, so they left it up to the kids to decide whether they wanted to learn. So far, none of them have chosen to.
There is a poll question at the bottom of the article - click on it & answer the question:
Poll result taken: 12-11-16 at 7:27 pm
QUESTION - Learning both French and English in school is:
Waste of time
Total number of votes: 6373
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jul. 05, 2013 7:00AM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jul. 05, 2013 11:25AM EDT
To counter the deliberate historical revisionism that is being foisted on Canada because it is fashionable to demonize colonialism, Keith's has put together some video clips which must not be missed if you want to know the real history of Canada. Thank you, Keith, for caring!!
We welcome comments from our readers:
Very interesting articles on French immersion. I would tend to completely agree with your assessment of the issue. There has no doubt been an attempt to herd Canadian parents into enrolling their children in French immersion programs. Huge amounts of taxpayer's money has been spent doing that. To what end? Of course learning another language is a fine thing if that is someone's choice, but why French?
Despite Pierre Trudeau's myopic view of the reality of Canada, this nation is not a French country. Outside of Quebec no province has a majority of French speakers. The only province to have a significant French speaking minority is New Brunswick. Why is attempting to push children into French immersion so important? It is strange when considering Quebec does everything in its power to stymy the English language. In Canada eighty percent of the workforce works in English. English is the language of science, trade and commerce throughout the world and very essential to know.
A nation can have more than one official language, India has several. Official languages however does not mean equality of languages. In Canada, French is basically a regional language. This country should never have been designated "officially bilingual", but rather just that it has two official languages. The idea of official bilingualism has allowed French language zealots and a few misguided Anglo jackals a reason to push for everyone being bilingual. Thus the real reason for French immersion programs for schools. It is called brain washing.
English speaking parents want to give their children every opportunity to succeed. The lure of good government jobs is one avenue, and one where being fluently bilingual seems to be a necessity. Who made up that nonsense, and sadder yet who bought into it? Unfortunately graduates of French immersion schools often find that their French language skills are deemed inadequate. Conversely a French speaker who speaks the most rudimentary English can qualify for almost any position. The only way an English speaker can qualify in French is to attend French schools from kindergarten through university totally immersed in the language and culture.
Some English speaking parents feel that French immersion schools are like a private school without the staggering tuition fees. Children have smaller classes and more interaction with teachers. Also they escape the riff raff and overcrowding found in many of today's public schools. That is how I heard one lady put it.
In fact just how well do children learn in an Immersion school? There is of course the problem of learning a language and a lesson in the same time frame. How does the curriculum compare to a regular public school? Can all children learn as well while struggling with a language quite alien to English speakers? English is based on a Germanic language with quite different grammar rules than Latin based French. Children go home and speak English with parents, siblings and friends.
We live in a world where English is essential. Our giant trading partner to the south speaks & works in English. In Latin America Spanish and Portuguese are spoken. In the pacific rim our main trading partners speak Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. Most of these nations learn English as a second language. How much good will learning French do our children in that field? There aren't enough government jobs to go around in Canada to make learning French worthwhile.
Be proud of the great English language and demand that jobs outside of Quebec be English only. Translators can be obtained to satisfy the few queries in French. Let Quebec be French. The Official bilingualism farce is only about pushing French hegemony on the rest of Canada. Stop electing French Canadians from Quebec to be our prime ministers.
Justin Trudeau was elected due in no small part to the Millennial vote. French immersion maybe?
Orlin from Manitoba
Thank you again, Kim. I just wanted to share with you this simple observation:
The French Quebecois oppress English Canadians in their own province but expect to be treated as equals in all the other provinces. Sorry, Jean-Pierre et Ghislaine Gagnon, but the real world doesn't work this way. It's like moslems demanding the right to erect mosques anywhere in the country while Christians are denied the right to build churches in moslem lands. This is justice turned on its head. Quebec fascists have to be told in no uncertain terms that as long as English is officially relegated to second-rate status in Quebec, then they cannot expect to be welcomed with open arms in the rest of Canada. Unfortunately too many short-sighted parents have bought into the beguiling fantasy that their children will enjoy greater prosperity as bilingual adults. They miss the point.
The position of Official Languages Commissioner is positively Orwellian in its undertones and frightening in its implications. The parents who rush, herd-like, into the statist program manifest the worst elements of Groupthink. All they want to know is that Johnny will make more money if he speaks French, period.
Well, he probably will, if he stays in Canada and does business with his counterparts who chose to remain in Soviet Quebekistan, or if he joins the federal civil service where French has been assigned a far disproportionately greater importance than numbers warrant. However, it is absolutely vital to understand that French Immersion is an integral part of an ambitious initiative by Quebec nationalists to colonize English Canada. Parents who wish the best for their children are unwittingly playing right into their hands. In a free society there should not be an arm of the state overseeing the languages its citizens speak. I submit that this is the genesis of the language issue in Canada and it's about time it was addressed. In this regard the parents need more educating than their children.
Barry from Quebec
I am not bi-lingual, however; I can read road signs, make out a menu if needed. Cannot converse in French at all.
Both my children went through the French Immersion in the Halton region here in Ontario. My thoughts at the time was to provide an opportunity for them should they want to work in the government. Our daughter went through K to Grade 12 and did quite well. I was able to help early on with my limited french. Her math won honors. Today she works in a bank and has not used her French since she left high school. I don't think she has retained much use of the language.
My son started in K but we decided to take him out for high school as he struggled with it. He now works with me in the family business.
I would prefer to have my taxes go to better health care , education and infrastructure. I totally agree that too much money has been wasted over the years satisfying Quebec language requirements.
It would be great if more businesses would get involve and I think they would if better informed. We are a member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and they have a network of businesses across Canada. Maybe you can connect with them if you haven't already.
Good luck and Keep Up the Good Fight
Let’s not forget that bilingualism is a scam to start with. The fact that job opportunities and privileges go to the bilingual is merely a reflection of how far and deep the scam is entrenched in Canada. It is flawed logic for parents to think that they must put their kids in these programs if they want to reap the rewards. It’s just lemmings going over the cliff mentality.
Bilingualism is merely the good cop/bad cop routine. People accept bilingualism as the lesser of two evils (the worse evil being total French control and/or separation). What they don’t realize is they are playing right into their hands with bilingualism and that the two end up the same way. It’s always the thin edge of the wedge with the French….. haven’t the English learned that lesson yet? Even if bilingualism was the end game….. isn’t that bad enough? Would you accept the imposition and dominance of another culture/language if it wasn’t French? If not, then why do you accept French?
The only real solution that can save Canada is to renounce bilingualism and force Quebec to leave. Canada will then become the great nation it should be without the anchor of the French around its neck.
Neil from Alberta
Great article! However, there would be no real significant job opportunities if the original pre-Pierre Trudeau Official Bilingualism idea was adhered to; which, ironically, was meant to ensure the (French) public did not need to become bilingual to get service or a job with the federal government.
This bilingual elitism of "Additional brain development and related benefits" is another way of saying that people who are bilingual, have more brain development i.e. automatically smarter than those who are unilingual, thus are automatically more qualified.
Hogwash, I can do basic math in my head where many a "superior" bilingual can not, and what I have seen with poor planning and inflexibility in the ever increasing bilingual public service shows you have people who can speak in two languages, but can't think in either.
SM from Ontario
French Immersion is fine, if what you want is a government Job in the Federal Government outside of Quebec. Otherwise, not only is it a waste of time, energy and money – It actually penalizes children who would otherwise do well in school, learning specific subjects, who, because of having to learn them in a “foreign” language, do not excel at best, or fail at worst.
While using this same argument, some children who are quite adaptable to learning a “foreign” language, but who are not nearly as smart otherwise, do adequately well in school, who graduate to get better jobs in government, than the children who would have done much better, but haven’t, because of the pressure of learning a “foreign” language.
I contend . . . That if Quebec, where 96% of the French speakers live, would leave Canada, the NUMBSKULLS in government, would still push this STUPIDITY of National Bilingualism down our collective throat, because that’s who they are.
Kim - I am always in AWE of your dedication to this very just cause.
Howard Galganov - ex Quebecer
You are just as dedicated to your cause which I share - the fight against the idiocy of socialism! The only answer to our problem is for more Canadians to understand that you cannot run a country with a minority language as the deciding factor in who gets to control the govt. Just take a look at how badly the country is being run - spending is totally out of control & the national debt is rising very fast because our leaders have accepted the principles of wealth redistribution. Have-not provinces don't try to economize - why should they? Western Separatism is on the rise & I don't blame them.
As for the politicians, Shakespeare's Lear got it right:
"Get thee glass eyes and like a scurvy politician seem to see the things thou dost not".
Pursuing French Immersion (FI) is shooting ourselves in the foot. French speakers (a minority of Canadians) will continue to dangle the so-called "benefits" of FI and OB and blinded fools will follow them as they cannot get off the treadmill... FI >>> civil service >>> higher paying job >>> more FI... ad nauseum.
It's very sad... we can only wait until the house of cards collapses. Unfortunately, it is taking too long.
Roger from Ontario
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