French Immersion: Problems. Good Education vs Politically Correct Ideology. Problems for students, parents, taxpayers, teachers.
politically incorrect list of controversial topics

French Immersion: Problems.
Good Education vs Politically Correct Ideology.
The reality: problems for students, parents, taxpayers, and teachers.

Click to go right to the video
French immersion problems


French immersion. It's supposed to help bring about a bilingual Canada - while Quebec has become unilingually French. Street signs: French only. In grocery stores, after a major struggle, signs may now also be in English - but the English signs must be much smaller. What is going on, that in the face of the anti-English stance of Quebec, there is major pressure in the rest of Canada for bilingualisim - and not only from people whose primary language is French.

Back to French immersion. It's supposed to get English students fluent in French so they qualify for jobs that require French.

What's the reality - for students, parents, teachers, taxpayers, and for English stream education?

Students. At least for a year, at the end of the school day, expect them to be exhausted and crabby. So much for having it be fun to learn! And don't expect them to speak French fluently, not even after ten years.

For more, listen to the video.

Another big question: how does the reality of French immersion, linked with Quebec being French-only, relate to other human rights movements -where a large part of the movement has gone wrong - has gone, for instance, from working for equality for people of all races, to something like black thugs matter?

Political correctness: bilingualism is good, and French immersion is good.

The reality: the cost is very high, and that has not been faced. The cost to students, parents, English-speaking teachers - and taxpayers.

Strong forces are at work to block people from seeing the cost of French immersion, especially to the students it is supposed to benefit.

And then there is the negative impact on parents, English teachers, taxpayers, and English stream education - all while Quebec has gone unilingually French.

March 17, 2017

French Immersion: Problems.
Good Education vs Politically Correct Ideology.
The reality: problems for students, parents, taxpayers, teachers.


I am a recently retired teacher from Moncton, New Brunswick, where English classes are the most streamed classes on the planet. In some schools where immersion is offered, the difference in class compositions are ghetto-like versus private-school like discrepancies. The English program children are the least funded children in the province as our federal government sees that the children who support the immersion programs receive more.

I walked off a playground 15 years ago asking my self how other jurisdictions around the world are delivering second language programs without streaming their children. Outside of the immersion Canadian model, there is no one delivering anything like the four failing second language programs we promote here in New Brunswick. It was my primary purpose and focus of my Masters degree to create a better system for our province, but needless to say, here I sit many thousands of hours later, still writing letters to someone I am trying to connect with (like you) or I'm trying to convince people in positions of responsibility or power that we need major education reform.

There are so many reasons why early immersion should not be brought back to grade one, which is what is happening this fall. In 2008, a very brave Minister of Education listened to me and he didn't refute the research I showed him, and he saw the moral disgrace of the two systems going through English schools, so he changed the entry point into French immersion to grade 3, giving the early years children a fairer shot at acquiring literacy. He saw the data that shows that immersion programs lag our children's progress and fail to produce many bilingual graduates. In 2014, 2.9% of grade 9 NB students achieved a Strong Performance on the Writing provincial assessment. The results in our math and science results show similar trends. Our strongest students, most of whom follow the French immersion stream, are being let down dramatically. We had a school show our district education council that they could double their math scores (from the 30's to the 70's) when the grade 6 late immersion students had their math delivered in English. Yet, this school, like every other, is mandated to teach math in French. These are atrocities to education for both the highest and the lowest students. The biggest atrocity is that everyone, everyone, knows about these lags. Everyone knows about the extra costs in administrating such lunacy, and the social costs being greatest, with such an inferior class composition in "public schools" for the English stream. Yet, the dogma and rhetoric continues year after year. Our liberal government made a campaign promise to restore immersion to grade one, and that's what is happening this fall, despite their knowledge and understanding of the pitfalls of doing such a thing. A University of Moncton professor said early immersion is best, so that's what they're doing. They have no clue of the ramifications of segregating our little five and six year old children on their own playgrounds where French immersion is offered.

I don't know what research you have, but here is a bit I've accumulated that supports children learning to read and write in their home language when possible. Somehow we need to get rid of this terrible Canadian model and find a way that words better, because what we are doing goes against all reason and pedagogy.

Take Care

Jane Sherrard
Retired Classroom teacher, Reading Recovery Teacher, Literacy Support Teacher/Coach


National Research Council Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children: "The accumulated wisdom of research in the field of bilingualism and literacy tends to converge on the conclusion that initial literacy instruction in a second language can be successful, that it carries with it a higher risk of reading problems and of lower ultimate literacy attainment than initial literacy instruction in a first language, and that this risk may compound the risks associated with poverty, low levels of parental education, poor schooling, and other such factors." (p. 234)

Northrop Frye - The Educated Imagination: "Whenever illiteracy is a problem, it's as fundamental a problem as getting enough to eat or a place to sleep. The native language takes precedence over every other subject of study: nothing else can compare with it in usefulness." (p. 1)

Second Language Literacy Instruction: A Position Statement of the International Reading Association: "Literacy learning is easiest when schools provide initial literacy instruction in a child's home language. Such instruction is consistent with building on children's strengths and with connecting unfamiliar material to the familiar to maximize learning efficiency."

UNESCO Education in a Multilingual World Education Position Paper: "Speakers are often at a considerable disadvantage in receiving instruction in a foreign official language. The expert view is that mother tongue instruction should cover both the teaching of and the teaching through this language." (p. 14)

Nadine Dutcher - The Use of First and Second Languages in Primary Education: Selected Case Studies: "There is not one universal best answer to the language problems of multi-lingual countries. The key here is to sustain and to nurture youngster's linguistic and cognitive development while teaching the second language and gradually introducing content materials in the second language, without abandoning the language arts or the content material taught in the mother tongue."

Elana Scraba - Schools Teach: Parents & Communities Support Review of the New Brunswick Education System: "New Brunswick has a large percentage of students in French Immersion; consequently, one could expect proportionately large numbers of students in the top performing group. Not so. The PISA data suggest that the French Immersion Programme is not preparing New Brunswick's students of the complex contemporary world. This study concludes that there are complex systemic issues needing attention in the New Brunswick education." (p. 3,5)


What comes to mind is writing in French. I express myself fully, not aware of leaving things unsaid. Then I do an English version. Suddenly I'm using not just a richer vocabulary, but the ideas are more nuanced.

It makes absolutely no sense to make learning a language a priority over LEARNING.


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Human Rights Movements Gone Wrong
(only the second part of the talk)

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French Immersion: Problems.
Good Education vs Politically Correct Ideology.
The reality: problems for students, parents, taxpayers, teachers.

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