Why should ESL be Mandated in Ontario In a recent Globe and Mail article (August 31, 2005), Unnati Ghandi pointed out that school boards (she was referring directly to the Toronto District School Board) use monies designated for ESL for things such a paying for heat and light. While this might be reason enough to mandate ESL, we believe there are a number of more important reasons. First, ESL funding in Ontario is limited to five years. While the McGuinty government has increased it from three to five years, most research indicates that it takes students from 5 to 7 years and, if they arrive at the high school level without the necessary literacy and academic skills, it could take more that 8 years, if they catch up at all (Collier and Collier). If students are not provided with an opportunity to attain a high level of literacy, we will have to spend additional monies later on to provide them with remedial training. Second, ESL funding in the K-12 system is restricted to those students who were born outside of Canada. In many cases students, who are born here and raised in homes where English is not the language of communication, arrive at school needing similar amounts of training as those born out of the country. If these students do not receive language support, they are doomed to failure in their academic careers. Third, ESL in the school system is not grade specific; this means that students are placed in classes with other students of the same linguistic ability rather than with their peers. This can have a detrimental effect on the motivation, self-esteem and confidence of such students. Four, ESL is the fastest growing group of students in Ontario. In addition, Ontario receives the largest number of immigrants who select Canada as their new home. This trend is certain to continue in the future with the recent announcement by the Government of Canada that it intends to increase immigration by 100,000 people a year to counteract our falling population (Toronto Star, September 24, 2005). This large increase of new immigrants will put mounting pressure on an already taxed system. Five, in schools in the Greater Toronto Area, school boards are allocated approximately one full-time ESL teacher for every 25 students. While this may not seem out of line with other subject matter areas, ESL students often require individual attention, need to be taught in small groups, have needs beyond language that must be attended to: adapting and integrating into the new school and Canadian cultures, acquiring academic skills, etc. Many of these are taught as part of the content of ESL programs to support their learning. IN smaller school boards, where the number of ESL students does not warrant hiring a full-time teacher, these students may receive little or no specialized language training or may be grouped with special education students. Six, ESL cannot be taken as a teachable as part of the B.Ed. programme in Faculties of Education. It is part of the Additional Qualifications bank of courses. As a result, a teacher who has specialized in ESL or would like to take ESL as part of their B.Ed. cannot do so. In contrast, as French is mandated, it can be taken as part of a teacher
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