Friday, December 10, 2010

Sibling rivalry over the merits of French Immersion

My brother is a high school teacher in Guelph, he also writes opinion pieces on occasion for ther Guelph Mercury newspaper. He just offered his thoughts on whether or not to enrol a child in French immersion, something I blogged on a while back. His conclusions are differently different from my own, so in a bit of cyber sibling rivalry I thought I'd take him to task.

You can view his column HERE.

Summarizing his main points:

-4 years old is too young to determine if a child has the requisite language skills and intelligence.

-The quality of teachers in the available hiring pool for FI is too small compared to the English stream. Thus regular streamed students will get better teachers, and teachers are the most important factor in a student's academic success or failure.

-Having children attending a school out of their immediate (walking distance) area.

-That there's more diversity in the regular stream than in French Immersion.

Well Greg, I don't think you could be more wrong.

I for one think that most parents will have a decent grasp on their children's' capacity for learning at the age of four. I do not think French Immersion is for every child, far from it. But for parents who find their child very eager to learn new things, I believe its a wise choice. Children who enjoy reading and word play games are going to be more challenged and more engaged in a French Immersion environment.

Now, the quality of teachers....ugh. Greg, you have to be kidding me.

Everyone knows there are dullards in the regular stream. Thankfully there are many excellent teachers too, and its exactly the same in French Immersion. I've found the teachers at my children's school to be excellent! Perfect? No, but in my humble opinion Buddy and Raspberry's teachers stack up amazingly well against any school's staff in the province of Ontario.

And as for teachers being the most important factor in determining a child's academic success or failure, BUNK. Its the parents! Studies have shown that children whose parents went on to post secondary education are more likely to move on themselves. Motivated students excel regardless of whether their teacher is Mr. Holland or a 20 year veteran just hanging on so he can max out his pension.

I'm not suggesting there are not some amazing teachers out there in the regular stream, ones capable of taking a socially and economically at risk kid and helping him or her achieve great academic success. I'm talking about the norm.

And more diversity in the regular stream??? Puhlease. Again, from experience...your niece and nephew's school is incredibly diverse. White, Black, Asian, Arab, Muslims, Christians, runs the gamut. How diverse a child's school is will be largely dependent on the diversity within the school's enrolment area. Why? Because recent immigrants are often very concerned about giving their children every conceivable advantage in our hyper competitive society.

I made the point in my original blog on this topic, that parents who put their kids in FI are likely far more engaged in their child's education than kids in the regular stream. That's not to say kids in the regular stream have parents who are out to lunch. But as an educator I'm sure you're aware of lots of parents who really don't give a rip. I'm suggesting that on balance parents who enrol their kids in FI are more likely to be involved in their child's education.

The only point you make that has merit Greg is that of geography. If your kids can come home for lunch, and the local school doesn't offer FI, then I can see the validity of that point. It comes down to values and I wouldn't diminish any one's desire to sit down with their kids at lunchtime.

French Immersion is a wonderful program, but granted its not one for everyone. Paramount is that the child must enjoy it, if they're struggling and not enjoying school...then I would whole heartily agree that a move to the regular stream is in order.

We live in a world where everyone wants a "One Size Fits All" solution to complicated questions and issues. Real life isn't like that. I respect your decision to not put your kids in FI, that is a parent's prerogative.

But to flippantly dismiss the value of the entire FI system is in my view somewhat irresponsible.

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