Canada: Experts take exception to minister's use of their research

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 26 13:37:00 UTC 2008

Forwarded From: edling at

Miramichi Leader

Experts take exception to minister's use of their research

Scrapping most successful form of second language education seems extreme

by Dr. Fred Genesee

The Honorable Minister of Education of New Brunswick, Mr. Kelly
Lamrock, recently released another written response to concerns raised
by his decision to eliminate early French immersion from the NB
elementary school program - the document was entitled, When Should
Study Give Way to Decision? This is a response to some of his
statements concerning my own and others' research on second language
learning in school settings. Mr. Lamrock rightly raises the issue of
early versus late second language teaching and learning. He points out
that in my review I conclude that "...the notion that there is "an
optimal starting grade for bilingual education is misguided."

I would stick by this conclusion. However, Mr. Lamrock fails to point
out that earlier in the same paragraph I had stated: "The 'best'
starting grade for bilingual education can depend on the goals, needs,
and resources of the community. In communities such as Quebec,
Belgium, or Northern Italy, where two or more languages are commonly
used in everyday life, it may be best to begin bilingual education
early so that children become accustomed to both (all) languages early
on and, also, so that they can take advantage of language learning
opportunities that are afforded outside school. In contrast, in
communities such as Germany, Japan, or many communities in the U.S.
where monolingualism is the norm and other languages have no official
status and/or are only used in restricted settings, introduction of
bilingual education in higher grades may be sufficient."


Response to radio interview with Minister of Education Kelly Lamrock

by Dr. Joseph Dicks

I feel compelled to respond to the interview with Minister Lamrock
that was aired on Friday, May 16.

There are a number of statements that the minister made that need to
be corrected. I find it incredible that the Minister of Education, the
person responsible for public education in this province, could make
such unqualified statements that ultimately mislead the public on
matters related to public education.

Here are some examples of Minister Lamrock's misleading statements:

* The minister dismissed Dr. Fred Genesee's public statements
regarding the superiority of Early French immersion by referring to
Dr. Genesee's peer reviewed research that finds that late immersion
also works. This is extremely misleading. Dr. Genesee has made it
clear that while Late French immersion works for students who are
strong academically, Early French immersion is the best option for
communities where there are two languages in close contact. In fact,
on Wednesday evening here in Fredericton, Dr. Genesee directly
addressed this issue and made it absolutely clear that he does not
understand this decision to eliminate Early Immersion in an officially
bilingual province. Perhaps, had Minister Lamrock attended the public
lecture, or taken the time to meet with Dr. Genesee while he was here,
he would be less inclined to misrepresent this respected researcher's
work in the field of second language education.


Full story:


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138

Email: haroldfs at


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