After backlash from the public over proposed changes to French immersion education, New Brunswick officials announced Friday they scrapped the plan.
Bill Hogan, New Brunswick’s minister of education and early childhood development, confirmed the news at a press conference in Fredericton.
“We listened intently to the voices of nearly 13,000 New Brunswickers who participated in our consultation sessions over the past month,” said Hogan in a news release.
“We have taken all we have heard and incorporated it into our decision.”
The decision follows recent public consultations on the future of French language learning, where the provincial government faced backlash from New Brunswickers who opposed the proposed plan.
Officials proposed devoting 50 per cent of the school day to learning in French and the other half to English instruction for subjects such as math, reading and writing.
However, the amount of time spent learning in the French language would have decreased to 40 per cent by the time a child reached middle school.
The province says a summary of results from public consultations will be released in the early spring, but for now, it will open French immersion registration for Grade 1 students for this fall.
Hogan said more schools still need to offer more in-depth French language instruction and have better French outcomes and improvements in English Prime classrooms.
He adds while the current system leaves many children behind, education officials are “committed to addressing the issues causing this.”
“We want all high school graduates to be equipped with the skills they need to thrive in life so that no child is left behind,” said Hogan.
“This is not the end, but the beginning of what will be positive and lasting change.”
Meanwhile, a prominent advocacy group is applauding New Brunswickers for speaking out about “the importance of French Immersion.”
Chris Collins, executive director of Canadian Parents for French New Brunswick, said in a statement on Friday that his organization is thrilled with the government’s announcement.
“The people of this province made this happen,” he said in the statement. “So many of them took the time and the effort to make sure their voices were heard.”
Collins said the proposed changes — and the public consultations that followed — brought people together and helped to show that “bilingualism makes us stronger.”
“I think this issue really brought people together and helped to show that helping our children and grandchildren have more opportunities to succeed is what we are all after,” he said.
Collins said his organization’s victory feels like “a genuine turning point” for the education of New Brunswick children, speaking of a need to provide more support and resources in English classrooms.
He adds that Canadian Parents for French New Brunswick will continue to monitor the Language Learning Opportunities with concern.
“Bilingualism is paramount to the success of our province, and French Immersion is a proven way to give more New Brunswickers more opportunity,” said Collins.