Elitist, Inequitable and Exclusionary Practices: A Problem within Ontario French Immersion Programs? A Literature Review


  • Lauren Delcourt University of Ottawa




French second language, inclusive, French immersion, learning disabilities, language acquisition, bilingual


The 2013 Ontario French Second Language (FSL) Curriculum emphasizes inclusivity and bilingualism; however, many students are recommended to opt out of French Immersion (FI). The opting-out of students may support the strengthening of the program by establishing a reputation of success, but how does it affect the withdrawn child? Are FSL programs using best practices to support all learners equitably, or catering to the elite students as a result of misconceptions, lack of resources and professional training? To address these questions, an exploratory and focused literature review of Canadian publications, Ministry of Education documentations and global articles on the topic of bilingualism was conducted, focusing on the works of Genesee (2007) and Baker (2006) on natural language acquisition, Arnett and Mady (2017) on teachers’ and parents’ perspectives, and Gour (2015) and Wise (2012) who report on misconceptions regarding second language education. Emerging trends indicate that elitist practices and unequal access to FSL programs remain a prominent issue in Ontario classrooms. With the understanding that students with learning disabilities (LDs) can succeed in the FI program, removing these learners may in turn, be a disservice to their overall learning. Findings presented in this paper support the need to examine how learners’ abilities are being perceived by educational professionals to provide the necessary tools and supports for success, appropriate training to mitigate misconceptions, as well as retain a reputation for success in FSL programs through equitable means. Acknowledging such discrepancies between what serves as best teaching practice and making it possible in the classroom is necessary to reduce excuses of unpreparedness to meet students’ diverse needs and initiate reflection and training programs that prepare teachers to teach inclusively to all. 

Author Biography

Lauren Delcourt, University of Ottawa

Lauren Delcourt received her Bachelor of Education from McGill University and Mater of Education from the University of Ottawa in teaching and learning. Particular interest in French second language education has focused her research and further studies in additional qualification courses. She teaches in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board across various grade levels in Core French and French Immersion programs.


Arnett, K., & Mady, C. (2017). Core or immersion? Canadian French-second-language teacher candidates' perceptions and experiences of the best and worst program options for students with learning difficulties and for English language learners. Exceptionality Education International, 27(1), 17-37.

Arnett, K., & Mady, C. (2010). A critically conscious examination of special education within FSL and its relevance to FSL teacher education programs. The Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 13(1), 19-36.

Baker, C. (2006). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism. (4th ed.). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Bruck, M. (1978). The Suitability of Early French Immersion Programs for the Language-Disabled Child. Canadian Journal of Education, 3(4), 51-72.

Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. (2009). Protocol for agreement for minority language education and second-language instruction, 2009-2010 to 2012-2013 between the Government of Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/211/protocol-for-agreements-2009-2013.pdf

Genesee, F. (2007). French immersion and at-risk students: A review of research evidence. Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(5), 655-687.

Gour, R. (2015). Engagement or despondence? Ontario middle-school core French teachers' perceptions of and experiences with the 2013 Ontario French as a second language curriculum (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/70346/1/Gour_Rochelle_201511_MA_thesis.pdf

Hallett, D. (2017). Demand for French Immersion in Guelph far exceeds board cap. Guelph Mercury Tribune. Metroland Media Group Ltd. Retrieved from https://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/7101466-demand-for-french-immersion-in-guelph-far-exceeds-board-cap/

Halsall, N. D. (1994). Attrition/retention of students in French immersion with particular emphasis on secondary school. Canadian Modern Language Review, 50(2), 312-345.

Lazaruk, W. (2007). Linguistic, academic, and cognitive benefits of French immersion. Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(5), 605-627.

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (2018, February). Learning Disabilities Statistics: Some recent Canadian sources for statistics on learning disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.ldao.ca/introduction-to-ldsadhd/articles/about-lds/learning-disabilities-statistics/

Lyon, G. R., Fletcher, J. M., Shaywitz, S. E., Shaywitz, B. A., Torgeson, J. K., Wood, F. B., et al. (2001). Rethinking learning disabilities. In C. E. Finn, Jr., A. J. Rotherham, & C. R. Hokanson, Jr. (Eds.). Rethinking special education for a new century (pp. 259-287). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation & The Progressive Policy Institute.

Mady, C., & Arnett, K. (2009). Inclusion in French immersion in Canada: One parent’s perspective. Exceptionality Education International, 19(2), 37-49.

Mady, C., & Black, G. (2012). Access to French as a second official language programs in English dominant Canada. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 57(4), 498–501.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2017). Education Facts, 2016-2017 (Preliminary). Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/educationFacts.html#note1

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013). The Ontario curriculum: French as a second language. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/fsl18curr.pdf

Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (2018). Meeting Labour Markets Needs for French as a Second Language Instruction in Ontario: Understanding Perspectives Regarding the French as a Second language Teacher Labour Market Issue, Retrieved from http://www.opsba.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/FSLsummary_INTERACTIVE.pdf

Paradis, M. (2004). A neurolinguistic theory of bilingualism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Statistics Canada (2017a). Canadian Survey on Disability, 2017 in The Daily. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/daily-quotidien/181128/dq181128a-eng.pdf?st=BWYUD8-e

Statistics Canada (2017b). Table 477-0027 - Enrolments in French immersion programs, public elementary and secondary schools, Canada, CANSIM (database). Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/171103/cg-c001-eng.htm

Swain, M. (1974). French Immersion Programs Across Canada: Research Findings. Canadian Modern Language Review, 31(2), 117-129.

Turnbull, M., Lapkin, S., & Hart, D. (2001). Grade 3 immersion students' performance in literacy and mathematics: Province-wide results from Ontario (1998-99). Canadian Modern Language Review, 58(1), 9-26.

Wise, N. (2012). Access to special education for exceptional students in French immersion programs: An equity issue. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 14(1), 177-193.