Annual Report 2017-2018

Looking ahead, getting ready

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3. Language as a vehicle for professional intervention

There is no doubt, language skills will remain key in several fields of employability in Ontario. In these fields, the ability to work in French will remain an essential aspect of preparing for the future of the workforce.

With an aging population, the demand for health professionals will only increase. There is already a lack of French- speaking health care professionals in Ontario. The need to hire, train and retain these practitioners is likely to become more and more pressing. The same can be said for nurses, social workers and mental-health-care practitioners – we need some who speak French to respond to Francophones’ needs. These are all professionals from the field of health sciences who will continue to be in demand and where language will guarantee the success of professional interventions.

English is increasingly the working language in fields related to sciences, technology, engineering and math, compared to the humanities and social-science fields. This could put additional pressure on students, encouraging them to leave French-language institutions to pursue their studies in English, with the false impression that they will get further ahead as a student in English in these fields. If studying in French seems to be a risk with few returns, young people will be greatly discouraged by it. It will therefore be important to ensure that Francophone students’ increased interest in the health professions that require a scientific education is not accompanied by a decreased interest in or aptitude to work in French. In colleges such as Collège Boréal and La Cité, courses are taught in French, but all technical information is also taught in English so students can be ready to enter Ontario’s workforce.

This interest in studying and working in French is influenced by the experience. Indeed, the number and qualified French teachers and the education system are an ongoing concern in Ontario. Although today there are about 14,000 more students enrolled in French- language schools than there were ten years ago,147 the province is generally ill-equipped to support this growing enrollment. Despite numerous budgetary efforts by the Ministry of Education following the Office’s investigation report in 2011,148 the pool of qualified French-language teachers who can work in French-language schools is still small. We must attract French-language students to teaching and recognize the training teachers receive in other Francophone countries more easily. These recruiting efforts should also align with federal priorities in the Action Plan for Official Languages, which raises this critical issue.

The English-language schools have no less of a challenge. They, too, are experiencing an alarming shortage of qualified French-as-a-Second-Language teachers, not to mention the fierce competition between them. Teachers must often share their time between two classes, and when a teacher is sick, the school management will call on an English-language substitute.149 In 2017, the school trustees at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board even made a formal request asking the province to intervene.150 It is the Government’s responsability to encourage measures that support French programs and services, in particular in education, to address shortcomings and ensure relevant training in a changing labour market. The Commissioner proposes a few solutions, some of which are related to postsecondary education.

  1. For more information, see
  2. For more details, see
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.

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