N.B. teachers association calls on province to slow down, restart on French immersion replacement
The New Brunswick Teachers Association is calling on the provincial government to "slow down," "restart" and "stop" when it comes to planned changes to French immersion.
In a message posted on social media Friday, the association says the plan, is not ready.
It says "learning conditions for all teachers and students are essential" and the government should "restart here."
The association also says it wants to see an end to what it calls political interference in education, which it contends "breeds long-term instability."
"What we're trying to educate our current and future politicians and the public about is the importance of stability in our education system," said president Connie Keating.
"It shouldn't be reduced to partisan football."
Not enough time
This comes as consultations with parents and teachers on the contentious 50-50 plan have wrapped up and the Department of Education gets to work on a final plan that could be implemented by September, if the changes proceed.
Under the proposed model, described as a "framework" when it was unveiled in December, all anglophone kindergarten and elementary students would spend half their day learning English and half learning French.
That's more French than what non-immersion students get now but much less than the existing, optional immersion program.
Seven months isn't enough time to put a new model — "however it will look" — into place, according to Keating.
She points to the current teacher shortage, particularly the shortage of French language teachers.
Although Education Minister Bill Hogan has suggested a solution might be to move forward with the changes for Grade 1 and not kindergarten, Keating doesn't think that would be enough to prevent "chaos."
She noted there are areas throughout the province that currently do not have any French language classes. Those districts and principals will be scrambling to find teachers when there is already a shortage of supply teachers on a daily basis, she said.
"It just doesn't seem possible."
It's a "mammoth" undertaking and it's causing "a lot of anxiety," Keating said.
"Teachers are certainly wondering about if they'll have to switch schools. You know, unilingual teachers are wondering where they will end up, if they're in a school where French isn't currently offered.
"So there are so many questions right now in a system that is already unstable" from COVID-19, and other issues, such as "significant learning gaps," and increased mental health issues, she said.
The association appreciates that the government's been "brave enough to start this conversation," said Keating.
"Now that it's been started, we're hopeful that they'll continue to be brave and restart the planning process with our professional team of educators at the Department of Education to build that firm foundation that we all need in order to grow a very solid, stable education system."
She suggests the "restart" should begin with class composition and wants to see some clear targets, with funding and the human resources in place to deliver.
Earlier this week, Premier Blaine Higgs said a decision on the changes will be made based on the public consultations, and recommendations from the education department.