Louisiana Green-Lights a Masters in Bilingual Education

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the state’s Department of Education have approved the creation of a Master's degree in elementary French immersion education. A first class of between five and ten students will begin the course in May 2019.
© University of Louisiana at Lafayette

The Louisiana Board of Regents will meet in Baton Rouge on August 22 to allocate the funding required to create the Masters. “It’s the final step,” says Michell Haj-Broussard. The professor of education helped launch the project and is confident about its future. “We have already started developing the brochures and class content.”

The combined linguistic and educational program will train U.S. professors how to teach basic math and science in French. The two-year Masters will take the form of a cooperative training course, with students taking 36 hours of weekly theory classes while also working as assistants in dual-language schools in the Lafayette area. This will be the second program of its kind in the United States after the one founded at Hunter College in New York in 2011.

Louisiana is hoping this Masters will enable it to “win back its former immersion students,” and train its own bilingual teachers, according to Michelle Haj-Broussard. Today, the state lacks sufficient numbers of teachers. In an effort to provide the 33 French-English immersion schools with staff, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) has appealed to international teachers. Some 46 professionals from Quebec, France, Belgium, and Gabon have been recruited for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Teaching Science in French

Following the so called “50/50” immersion model applied in Louisiana, Francophone staff teach math and science for half the day in French, and work with an Anglophone teacher who gives classes in literature and social sciences in English for the second half.

The applicants for the Masters must have a Bachelor’s Degree and be proficient in French (level B2 or Upper Intermediate). No teaching experience is necessary, however. “Our students will not be teaching French, but rather math and science in French,” says Michelle Haj-Broussard, who will be giving classes on how to teach math in French, among others. “This is why many bilingual teachers in Louisiana are former engineers, nurses and scientists.”

The application process for the Masters will open in September. The fees are estimated at 13,000 dollars and the federally recognized qualification will be valid in all other American states. “Our graduates will be able to work in Utah or Delaware,” says Michelle Haj-Broussard, “but we are hoping they will stay in Louisiana!”