Protesting the Abolition of EFI

I’m heading off to Fredericton tomorrow to protest against the abolition of early French immersion (EFI) at the Provincial Legislature. I’ll be joining hundreds of other concerned citizens to show our disagreement with this decision. It’s my first protest, as I never had the chance to participate in these political activities while I was in the Army, so I guess it will be a learning experience.

I have many concerns with our education system, and I would have preferred to engage the government on something more substantial, such as the basis for curriculum or the whole notion of one-size-fits-all education, but EFI is the touch-point for many parents. I’m adding my voice to this protest for several reasons:

  1. Gaining a second language is one of the few useful skills that students can develop and keep long after they have memorized and forgotten useless data for most academic subjects.
  2. All of the research shows that learning a second language earlier results in better abilities with that language.
  3. A second language opens mental capabilities and makes it easier to learn other languages later.
  4. Speaking a second language opens one’s mind to the realization that there is more than one way to conceive of something, and can make you more tolerant of others.
  5. Multilingual capabilities are valued by the “creative class”, and we want to attract and retain the creative class.
  6. Abolishing EFI sends the wrong signal and encourages a myopic view of Us versus Them, especially since the Minister of Education has stated that EFI was elitist [but was open to all students].
  7. Pushing second language learning to the fifth grade and making it optional in Grade 6 reduces our other official language in this province to the status of an academic elective.

This is not the end of the world and there are other, more important issues in our society, but the abolition of EFI is sending the wrong message about this province’s vision for its citizens and it is handicapping a generation of learners who are getting little out of the education system already.

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Now it’s off to make my placard …

Update: We had about 500 protesters, of all ages, but our three-hour demonstration fell on deaf (government) ears:

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7 Responses to “Protesting the Abolition of EFI”

  1. Daniel Lemire

    I totally agree that it is a waste of a brain to remain unilingual.

    You know, if you don’t care for French, learn Spanish, Japanese, German, Portuguese or Cantonese.

    Beside, people should know that even if you never use French, knowing French makes you better at English. Of course, you have to know both French and English well to see how one language helps you with the other.

    Reply
  2. Karyn Romeis

    Are you practising:

    What do we want? EFI!
    When do we want it? NOW!

    Every protest I’ve ever seen on TV seems to use that chant. Perhaps you should do it en francais!

    Reply
  3. Gilbert

    I am afraid that the reaction to the EFI will impact other more positive changes that might have come from this Minister, who I am told, really cares about education in this province.

    Prime Minister Graham’s statements about making New Brunswick’s education system the best in the country had me dreaming for a while. We sure could use a better system.

    The EFI issue will probably slow down any hope of improving the system.

    Sure doesn’t take long for a government to run into trouble.

    Gilbert

    Reply
  4. Harold

    We learned today at the protest that the Deputy Minister of Education had already announced the elimination of EFI in an internal memo in June 2007, prior to commissioning Croll & Lee in July 2007. This was a done deal, with many hidden agendas [I’ve been informed that this internal memo referred to the elimination of the Core program and not EFI].

    Reply
  5. Harold

    This letter from a school principal to the Minister clearly shows the flaws in this decision:

    “I challenge your department to find one peer-reviewed, international, longitudinal study which indicates that second language acquisition impacts negatively on first language skills. If this were truly the case, New Brunswick students who do not have access to Early French Immersion in their neighbourhood schools would do statistically significantly better on Provincial Literacy Assessments. I know this is not the case. Early French Immersion students consistently score higher on literacy tests as language acquisition is transferable between (or among) languages. Current studies indicate that students who are struggling in their first language benefit from the explicit instruction in a second language setting.”

    Reply

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