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A foundation for Cree immersion education



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This study provides selected research findings on which decisions can be based in planning an in-school, publicly funded, Cree immersion program from kindergarten to grade 8 in Saskatchewan. The study was an analysis of language education research relating to the learner in immersion programs. Consequences of immersion education for student linguistic, psycho-social, and educational development were examined and reported. Immersion programs for French, and to a lesser extent, for heritage languages in Canada, have been extensively researched. Immersion programs for Indian languages are few and are relatively unreported. There is, however, an increasing interest in the creation of immersion programs in Indian schools. The analysis of research relating to publicly-funded French, heritage language, and Indian language immersion programs in Canada revealed support for the creation of an early total Cree immersion program. It could have neutral or positive effects on student linguistic, psycho-social, and educational development, under specific program conditions. The following consequences for students were projected: 1. a positive effect on Cree language proficiency. Native-like proficiency levels would not necessarily result. 2. a neutral or positive effect on cognitive development.3. a positive effect on attitudes toward the Cree language and culture, and a strengthening of Indian identity. 4. a neutral or positive effect on self-concet. 5. a lessening of social distance between the generations.6. a positive effect on attitudes toward language learning and the immersion experience. 7. a positive effect on student understanding of cultural, social, and political aspects of Indian/non-Indian relations.8. a neutral effect on English language and literacy development. Temporary lags in English literacy skills could be expected until after the teaching of English reading. Skill levels could become equivalent to those of comparable students in regular programs within one school year, with the possible exception of spelling.9. a neutral or positive effect on overall educational achievement. Greater understanding of their Indian culture, lowered drop-out rates, and improved work study skills could be predicted. Certain program characteristics which were identified as essential if all of the projected neutral or positive consequences were to be realized include: 1. an early total immersion program model. 2. an immersion centre setting.3. introduction of Cree literacy before English literacy.4. adequate Cree language resource materials, for all subjects and grades taught in Cree.5. fluently bilingual and biliterate qualified teachers with specialized training in bilingual education.6. subjects to be taught in Cree to be selected dependent on the availability of resource materials and qualified teachers.7. a carefully planned and implemented program. A Cree immersion program could result in enhanced cognitive and linguistic abilities to the extent that Cree were spoken in students' homes, and that students had opportunities to use Cree outside of the school. Under identified program conditions, early total Cree immersion could have at least neutral 'effects on student self-concept, cognitive development, English language development and academic achievement. It could have positive effects on student Cree language proficiency, attitudes toward the Cree language and culture, attitudes toward language learning, sociopolitical perceptions, communication within the family, retention rates, work study skills, and knowledge about Indian cultures. Cree proficiency attained by students might not be native-like, but could be at a level which would allow them to learn through Cree, and to continue learning the Cree language and culture.



Aboriginal education - Saskatchewan, Cree language - Study and teaching, Native education programs, First Nation's education programs, Cree language immersion programs, Cree language education



Master of Education (M.Ed.)


Indian and Northern Education


Indian and Northern Education


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