FLE provides access to a complete network of French-language programs and services in Ontario:
- 12 school boards throughout the province; 4 of these are public and 8 are Catholic;
- Over 230 daycare services within French-language schools, providing care to more than 90,000 children;
- 335 elementary schools and 95 secondary schools;
- Over 12,000 employees serving 90,000 students;
- Two francophone colleges and 10 French-language and bilingual universities with more than 21,000 students.
History of FLE
- Education is a key element in the history of French-speaking Ontario. Indeed, the identity of Franco-Ontarians is largely based on a unique educational experience that took place in the 17th century under the French regime.
- The first major school-related debate in Ontario dates back to the end of the 19th century, and focused on language rather than religion.
- In October 1844, Governor General Sir Charles Metcalfe named Reverend Egerton Ryerson Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada, the highest position in the province’s Department of Public Instruction.
1846 - 1876
- During Ryerson’s term of office, which lasted from 1846 to 1876, French schools were established throughout Ontario.
- Teachers were native Quebecers and frequently used teaching materials from Quebec.
- After the Ministry of Education was founded in 1875 and Ryerson retired in 1876, things became more complicated for Franco-Ontarians.
- Over time, the creation and development of French-language schools in Ontario became the subject of political struggles.
- English-speaking Canadians were dissatisfied with:
- The insufficient training of teachers;
- The waning knowledge of English;
- The use of manuals from Quebec.
- In 1885, English officially became a mandatory subject; in 1890, another law was passed to make English the language of instruction in Ontario’s schools except where it was impossible to do so. Schools therefore became bilingual.
- Anglophones used political decisions to minimize the teaching of French, as well as instruction given in French.
- In 1908, a commission led by F. W. Merchant, inspector of Ontario’s schools, revealed that the quality of the education and teaching of English were insufficient in bilingual schools. Merchant recommended providing better training to teachers and introducing English as the main language of instruction. More concerned with politics than education, the government focused on limiting the use of French in schools.
- In 1910, after their numbers had grown, Franco-Ontarians organized l'Association canadienne française d'éducation d'Ontario to promote French-language interests. From the beginning, their ideas were met with opposition from advocates of English as the sole language of instruction.
- On June 25, 1912, the Ministry of Education enacted Regulation 17 following an investigation carried out by Dr. Merchant. The highlights of this regulation:
- As of the 3rd grade, English is the only language of instruction and communication in bilingual schools, whether these are public or separated;
- Children receive instruction in English from the moment they begin school;
- The teaching of French must never replace or interfere with the teaching of English.
All forms of tolerance and openness were eliminated. Although Regulation 17 signified the implementation of a policy to assimilate and integrate francophones, it also catalyzed social mobilization and helped develop a sense of belonging to the French Canadian nation, whose future was seriously threatened.
1912 - 1927
- The next 15 years (up until 1927) were marked by struggles involving many political personalities and the clergy’s highest-ranking figures.
- In 1927, following a report by the Scott-Merchant-Côté Commission, the Ontario government implemented a system of bilingual elementary schools in which French became the main language of instruction (from then on, French and English were given equal consideration as languages of instruction and communication).
- From then on, the right to teach in French was established in elementary schools throughout Ontario. However, the struggle to obtain the same in secondary schools carried on until 1968.
- In 1967, John Robarts, the Prime Minister of Ontario, announced the implementation of French-language public secondary schools in Ontario.
- Thus, as of 1969, Ontario legislation authorized French to be taught in both elementary and secondary French-language schools.
- In 1977, the Ontario Ministry of Education appointed the first Assistant Deputy Minister of French-Language Education.
- In 1981, the Centre Jules-Léger was created to provide for francophone students with learning disabilities.
- In 1982, Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted. The legislation granted official language minorities the right to have their children schooled in their mother tongue wherever the number of children justified this right.
- In 1984, francophones in Ontario received major support when certain provisions of the Education Act were judged unconstitutional by the Ontario Court of Appeal. Shortly after, the first French-language school board of Toronto was established. The French-language school boards of Ottawa-Carleton and Prescott-Russell followed.
- In 1986, the Loi sur la gouvernance scolaire was enacted, which granted francophones complete and exclusive governance of their French-language schools and teaching units.
- In 1990, the Cité collégiale (Ottawa) was created; it was the first French-language college of applied arts and technology in Ontario.
- In 1991, the Ontario Ministry of Education created a French-language education Policy and Programs Branch. The branch’s mission is to establish policies and create or adapt the required programs and resources in order to offer quality education and services in all elementary and secondary French-language schools throughout the province.
- Two French-language colleges opened in 1995: Collège Boréal and the Collège des Grands Lacs; a permanent site was also created for the Cité collégiale’s campus. In 2002–2003, the Collège d’arts appliqués et de technologie des Grands Lacs ceased its activity.
- However, it was not until 1997 that the Ontario government created French-language school boards throughout the province, with the enactment of Act 104, the Fewer School Boards Act, 1997. These French-language school boards—4 of them public and 8 of them Catholic—were created on January 1, 1998. The Act also ensured these school boards would receive the same funding as English-language school boards.
- After many years of struggle, the Ontario francophone community was finally authorized to manage its own French-language elementary and secondary schools.
- In 2004, the government enacted the Politique d’aménagement linguistique (PAL) to strengthen French-language education in Ontario. This policy’s objective is to promote the French language and culture, improve student performance, support the development of students’ francophone cultural identity and expand the francophone community in Ontario to ensure its viability.
- At the beginning of 2004, the Minister of Education at the time created the first French Language Education Strategy Task Force. Its mandate is to study issues specific to French-language education and provide recommendations to ensure the long-term success of French language education in Ontario. Over the following years, these recommendations led to substantial investments in education administered by French-language school boards.
- In 2006, to acknowledge the valuable contribution of French-language education in Ontario, the government announced the creation of a permanent Task Force. Its mandate is to promote French culture, stave off assimilation and increase the success of francophone students. The collaborative work of the francophone community and leaders in the education sector resulted in 21 recommendations related to French-language education; all recommendations were adopted by the Minister at the time.
- On May 24, 2007, the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, announced the creation of the Unité du continuum de l’apprentissage en langue française within the Ministry of Education’s French-language education Policy and Programs Branch. Working for both Ministries, this new unit was put in charge of meeting the needs of pupils, students and learners in French-language secondary schools and bilingual and French language institutions, as well as French-language community agencies.
- From then on, the French-language education Policy and Programs Branch has provided training services and continued education in French from early childhood to the postsecondary level; the two task forces of each Ministry were then merged to create the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Permanent Task Force on French-Language Continued Education. This task force is currently preparing a series of recommendations that it will present to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. These recommendations are related to:
- Ideal locations for French-language schools;
- The transition from secondary to post-secondary studies.