NB French Immersion Flap at Heart of Dominic Cardy’s Cabinet Exit – New Brunswick

Premier Blaine Higgs and new Independent MP Dominic Cardy say a disagreement over how best to go about reforming French-second-language education is the main reason the former education minister quit the firm.

The two men were united in their belief that changes needed to be made to ensure that all graduates of the English school system could speak French at a conversational level and that the immersion program was no longer working as intended.

Where they diverged was on how quickly the reforms could be fully implemented and on eliminating the immersion program altogether.

In a resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Cardy wrote that the switch to teaching French as a second language ‘requires care, not a wrecking ball’ and claimed that Higgs intended to scrap the program altogether of immersion by September 2023.

“It just seemed like it boiled down with the Prime Minister to an ideological question separate from the evidence, separate from any political prescription, just a desire to see the (French immersion) program go away, which, again, doesn’t is not evidence-based,” Cardy said. in the letter.

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Higgs offered a different perspective when speaking with reporters on Thursday, saying Cardy was failing to make progress on a French-language replacement program for all incoming English-speaking students. He said Cardy wanted to implement the program in 2024, an election year, which would make it more difficult to sustain the reforms.

“The goal was to have a French program for all incoming students and yes, it was to do that by next fall, and then it was moved,” Higgs said. “We all know that in an election year, if you think you’re going to implement something big, it’s not going to happen. It just won’t happen.

“We’ve had this on the register for three or four years now, so how can we do this and have a year until an election?”

In turn, Cardy said the prime minister was trying to push forward the goals and timelines set within the Department of Education that had already been approved by cabinet. Rushing into reforms, he argued, would be the best way to ensure they were dropped after the next change of government.

“We had a carefully designed timetable, designed to take into account the needs of teachers and everyone else to be properly prepared to deal with political interference with the Prime Minister saying, ‘I want this program to end the year next, ‘not with a clear idea of ​​what he wanted to replace it with,’ Cardy said.

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“No one in the department, myself included, ever really figured out what they wanted, except that in the end it seemed to come down to wanting a lot less French education for English-speaking students. “

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Dominic Cardy expelled from NB PC caucus

A key part of the 2018 Progressive Conservative platform was a promise to develop a curriculum to ensure all students can graduate conversationally bilingual. In early 2020, Cardy announced that several schools would begin testing pilot French-as-a-second-language programs that, if successful, could replace French immersion.

“We have a number of programs offered in the Anglophone sector, and those programs have not achieved their goal, which is to ensure that we have a bilingual province,” he told Global News in January. 2020.

A report on second-language learning written by Provincial Court Judge Yvette Finn and former Deputy Minister of Education John McLaughlin earlier this year suggested scrapping French immersion, saying province had to radically change its approach to ensure that a greater part of the province was bilingual.

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“Unless all New Brunswickers develop a level of comfort in understanding and communicating in English and French, we will only be a bilingual province in name,” the report said.

Cardy said the second language pilot programs have proven successful and continue to expand to other schools and are on track for province-wide implementation in September 2024. He says the prime minister was handed a data binder showing the success of the program at a recent meeting, then shouting “data my ass” at a senior official.

“He had a binder of information on all the callsigns…where we’ve already made changes, already seen results. There was no point in discussing it, the only goal was to end the immersion,” Cardy said.

The Prime Minister does not dispute having shouted “data my ass”, but said that it is because the data presented to him were not relevant to the immersion program, which he wanted to talk about during the meeting.

“The numbers didn’t reflect any real value in the information we were trying to figure out: are we better? Are we implementing the program? said Higgs.

“I talked about our inability to speak both languages ​​and the French immersion program that only makes 30% or less of our children bilingual. I’ve been talking about it forever. »

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The duo was united in their goal of providing a high quality education in French as a second language to all English-speaking children. But Cardy said he doesn’t believe eliminating the immersion program entirely would be a good idea, wanting to ensure that English-speaking New Brunswickers have access to in-depth instruction in French if they want it.

“It was a goal that I shared with the premier, to ensure that English-speaking students in New Brunswick had the ability to converse in French,” he said.

“It never meant, however, that you wouldn’t also have the option, if you were a high school student, to take a French literature course or other French courses or (if) you wanted to go to a French university. , the same way we provide personalized education (to those) who want to pursue robotics or whatever. Why are we singling out and politicizing language education?”

With Cardy gone, Higgs said his intention was to see French immersion replaced by the start of the next school year. This task will fall to the new Minister of Education, Bill Hogan, a former educator who is also bilingual.

Speaking to reporters after being sworn into cabinet on Thursday, Hogan said he had not spoken to the prime minister about his expectations in the role. But he said he shares concerns about the current immersion program.

“French Immersion is an excellent program. It works really well for a small group of students and I think that’s where the problem lies,” he said.

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“It creates streaming…which creates a number of branching issues.”

Those issues include an unsuitable learning environment for some, with frequent classroom disruptions from some students, Hogan said. Ultimately, his goal will be the same that has united Cardy and Higgs for the past four years: to increase the number of bilingual graduates in the province.

“We want to try to see if there is a program that will help children learn to speak French at a conversational level at all levels.”

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