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ESL Infusion at OISE
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Background Information

Cartoon School with school bus and students

Each year, over 100,000 immigrants come to Ontario. According to the 2006 Census data, more than one quarter of Ontario’s population is foreign-born – the highest proportion of all 10 provinces and the highest in Ontario's history. One-third are under the age of 19 and three-quarters of newcomers are from countries where English is not the first language.

In Ontario English schools, students needing language support are referred to as English Language Learners (ELL). In 2007, a new policy to support English language learners was introduced by the province of Ontario.  

Funding for English as a Second Language programs has been a contentious issue over the past decade, with many schools reporting that available ESL supports do not match the need in schools.   Funding increases over the last five years has resulted in slight improvements in the percentage of schools with ESL teachers.  However, since it is not mandatory to spend ELL funds on ELL programs, some school boards utilized these ESL funds for other programs.

Meanwhile, cultural and linguistic diversity continues to grow in Ontario schools. The following province-wide and Toronto District School Board resources provide an idea of the "big picture" of ESL in Ontario.


Toronto District School Board Countries of Origin and Languages (2007)
These statistics provide a more full picture of the cultural and linguistic diversity in one of the province's most diverse school boards.

Toronto District School Board Student Census Linking Demographic Data with Student Achievement Data (Executive Summary)
This report includes patterns in Grades 7 to 10 student achievement (elementary report card, Grade 9 cohort subject completion and credit accumulation, and first-time eligible Grade 10 achievement in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test) and demographic information from the 2006 Student Census.

ESL Statistics
Between 1999 and 2001 enrolment rates by year of entry of Ontario Elementary and Secondary Schools were collected and compiled. They can be found at this link.

For more background information about: 

  • Terminology: proceed to the Glossary page.
  • Ministry of Education and school board-specific approaches to ESL and the changing face of education in Ontario: proceed to the Policy resources section.
  • The world of the English Language Learner: proceed to the Streamed Video Resources page
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