STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IN CANADIAN HERITAGE LANGUAGE PARTIAL IMMERSION PROGRAMS: A META-EVALUATION
Gillett, James Stephen
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This study takes a close and critical 100k at heritage language partial immersion programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It traces the forces and factors wh1ch have shaped the development of such programs (e.g., the growth of French immersion programs in Canada, the introduction of the federal government's policy of multiculturalism with in a bilingual framework) and critically analyzes the research that has been done to date in this area. Such analysis leads to two major conclusions. First, the evaluations of the English-Ukrainian and English-German partial immersion programs in Alberta and Manitoba show that students acquire satisfactory levels of L2 skills at no cost to achievement in English and other academic subjects. Students who receive English-medium instruction only part of the time perform at least as well in English academic skills as students who have been exposed to English-only instruction. In fact, there is evidence that this type of program may actually enrich L2 academic skills. Second, student affective outcomes, as viewed by parents, teachers, and principals, also appear to be positive. When questioned, most parents, teachers and school administrators felt that children had enjoyed the bilingual program, felt that the children and/or program had been integrated into the school, and wished to see the program continue as is or with slight changes. Most felt that the program had a positive effect on children's appreciation of the target culture and had helped the children develop a positive attitude toward the learning of other languages and the understanding of other cultures. Despite these positive results, a number of aspects of heritage language partial immersion programs need further researching before definite conclusions can be drawn. More research is needed to confirm, refute or qualify the small body of research that has been done to date on the correlation between academic ability and success in heritage language programs. Furthermore, while the heritage language partial immersion programs appear to have caused few ripples in the school systems offering them, one can only speculate on the effects for the educational system as a whole were such programs to be implemented on a largescale. More research is also needed to determine, among other things: (a) if there is a relationship between the L2 proficiency of the teacher and the L2 proficiency of students in the program, (b)if heritage language partial immersion programs are effective for children from clearly distinguishable lower socio-economic backgrounds, (c)if there is a clearly discernible relationship between language or learning disabilities and attrition rates in programs, (d) the impact that similarities and differences between the two languages of instruction have on language or learning disabled children acquiring6 second language, (e)the consequences of heritage language programs on cognitive development, (f)how heritage language partial immersion programs would work in subject areas other than social studies, and (g)the impact that Alberta's and Manitoba's decisions to switch to core programs after grade6 will have on second language development and proficiency, desire to remain in the program, and student attitudes toward the heritage language and culture.