French studies expanding

Graphic by Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

The Ontario government is releasing $16.5 million to expand French-language programs and services in provincial colleges and universities.

Ontario, which is Canada’s second largest francophone population, has responded to a large educational gap between French and English languages.

“The area that we’re focusing on, central and southwestern Ontario, is an area where we’ve had a number of independent sources advise there are some significant gaps in programming,” said Brad

Duguid, minister of colleges, training and universities.

Typically French post-secondary education is associated with universities and colleges in Québec. But Ontario’s francophone community — people whose first language is French — shows numbers at around 600,000.

Duguid believes that Ontarians should also have the opportunity to study French at a post-secondary level.

“Our objective is to serve the needs of our students and if there is a demand for these kinds of courses, then students ought to be given the opportunity to make the choices to what their future career objectives are going to be,” he continued. “Francophone students have, for quite some time now, been underserved in these regions, so we feel that it’s time to fill those gaps.”

The funding will be released over a period of three years. As part of the initial release, Glendon College will be receiving $1.5 million, and La Cité Collégial and Collège Boréal will receive $250,000 each.

Marie-Thérèse Chaput, the director of advancement at Glendon College, said that the money will be used to expand French programming in its communications, law, philosophy, biology and business programs.

She believes that the money is a good start, but there’s still a long way to go.

“If we look in perspective, the $16.5 million is excellent, but it will be only a fraction of what has to be done if we want to address the whole issue of programmation,” said Chaput.

Chaput believes that there are many programs absent in French language post-secondary education in Ontario.

“It’s not just French, it’s business in French, it’s communications in French, it’s health in French, it’s all the programs that you find in a university in French,” she added.

“This is what is missing.”

According to the Ontario French Languages Services Commissioner, there is only zero to three per cent representation in French programming in the province’s post-secondary institutions. While the

Commissioner commended the province for creating an Action Plan, it indicated in a news release that governance by Francophones is not addressed and that the timeline for the advisory board on

French education, which will also be created through the funding, adds “unnecessary delays.”

“Every institution will try its best with the money that is offered. After that, I think we’ll see how it is going and probably will at that point have reflection on what is working, what is not working, what will be best in the future to offer, what is really the demand in the area of higher education,” Chaput said.

In September, a provincial policy paper examining the possibility of differentiation in education at post-secondary institutions — meaning that universities or colleges might focus on particular strategic programs — was leaked.

When asked whether funding increased development of French language programs is a movement toward a specialization strategy, Duguid responded, “It’s an area of specialization that meets the needs of students. And that’s really what we’re striving to do.”

All francophone and bilingual post-secondary institutions are eligible for the funding, including ones in  partnerships with schools located in Ontario.

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