The complete report, Accessibilité
et participation des francophones de l'Ontario à l'éducation
postsecondaire, 1979-1994, produced in French, is available on
this website (PDF, 353KB).
The study is essentially an update of previous access and participation
studies by the authors as related to Ontario Francophones. As in the
previous studies, the authors show population flows of Ontario
Francophones through the various types of secondary schools (English/
French/"mixed" as well as Separate/Public) to full time
postsecondary studies at the college and undergraduate levels. Enrollment
data are also provided for graduate levels of enrollment.
This study is a comparative and historical study of enrollments at the
secondary and tertiary levels of study in Ontario.
University enrollments are shown for the period 1979-1994, college
postsecondary enrollments only for the period 1982-1992 and secondary
enrollments for the period 1967-1995 in some cases, but largely for the
At the undergraduate level, enrollment data are provided by mother
tongue, by sex and by major field of study and for some three dozen of the
most popular programs for Ontario Francophones. In addition, enrollment
data are provided for the three bilingual universities
At the college level, enrollment data are provided by mother tongue, by
sex and by division and by college. Although this study refers back to
enrollment data starting in 1982, the initial period is not exactly
comparable to the period after 1989, given the change of definition of the
category of mother tongue.
At the elementary and secondary levels, enrollment data is provided by
language of instruction of the school (i.e. English and French).
In addition, the study provides transition data of Ontario Francophones
from individual secondary schools, both French and "mixed"
through applications, acceptances and registrants in undergraduate
programs. Applications and acceptances data are theoretically available
for college enrollments also, but were not available for this study. As a
result, individual schools were not identified in the final report since
no combined transition rate to college and university could be provided.
In the case of transition data, the types of secondary schools are
distinguished according to the language of instruction
(English/French/mixed) and type (public/separate).
In a study of this type, nothing would appear to be more crucial than to
identify with precision the target population; in this case, Ontario
Francophones. At the same time, nothing is more difficult to achieve given
the state of various ministry data sources.
At the elementary and secondary levels, there is no systemic accounting
of enrollment according to mother tongue. System-wide enrollment data is
available only by the language of instruction of the school.
The question of mother tongue emerges for the first time in applications
data from the two applications centres in Guelph. An additional problem
emerges at this time because colleges and universities do not provide the
same categories of mother tongue. University application forms provide
three categories of "mother tongue": English/French/other.
College application forms (since 1990) provide four categories of "first
language": English/French/bilingual and other. The category "bilingual"
is meant to apply to French/English bilinguals, but an examination of OCAS
applications data revealed a very large number of applicants who assigned
themselves to this category, much more than census data would suggest
possible, such that supplementary estimates were needed to determine the
overall college Francophone population.
One of the by-products of this study has been the development of a
certain number of educational indicators which could conceivably be used
in contexts other than that of access studies.
Some of those indicators are amenable to use across educational levels
e.g. the index of concentration of females in programs or major field of
study; others would appear to be useful at one level only, e.g. the index
of attraction of colleges. Still others would be appropriate to
postsecondary levels alone e.g. the index of mobility of postsecondary
What follows is a table of various indicators used in this study and the
level at which each one was used. Some of them are traditional indicators
used in this type of study; others have been developed for this study.
Table 1 Educational indicators utilised in this
||of initial cohorts
||vs age group 18-21 yrs
||% to next level
|Rate of mobility
||% to outside catchment area
|Rate of concentration
||% in various fields, programs
|Index of segregation
|Index of attraction
||% from outside catchment area
In addition, the traditional indicators of gross full-time and part-time
enrollments were used throughout as well as that of distributions by major
field of study, by program and by gender. Distributions were expressed as
a percentage of total enrollments.
Comparative data with the non-Francophone population was presented
throughout the study, although this was a methodological choice, not a
normative one. It was not assumed that Francophone enrollments should
mirror those of the rest of the population.
The main findings are summarized below and grouped according to level.
Attrition data reveal a rate of loss at the end of the elementary panel
which reached 25% of an original cohort of pupils beginning in grade one
seven years previously. Since there are (almost) no "dropouts"
in the elementary panel, it is assumed that this loss of pupils is due to
the transfer of students to another system, either in-province or
out-of-province. The attrition rates were derived from stock data only,
such that the final rate was the result of departures combined with an
additional number of new arrivals who were assumed to compensate partially
for the departures. One can conclude that French-language elementary
schools are constantly having to deal with large numbers of arrivals and
departures, and coterminously, with varying degrees of linguistic
competence associated with those transfers. This is assumed to provide a
major pedagogical difficulty for those schools.
It is almost impossible, for the moment, to determine the actual "dropout"
rate from French-language secondary schools. On the other hand, it is
clear that the number of Francophones making the transition to university
from English-language secondary schools is quite low but not
Our previous studies had highlighted the transition rates to university
according to type of secondary school attended (French/English/"mixed"
and Public/Separate). Since our last study in 1989 a number of mixed
schools have acquired the status of French-language secondary schools even
though the pedagogical context does not appear to have changed. The result
is a statistical artefact which irons out the differences in transition
rates between types of schools. Henceforth we recommend not attempting
these finer distinctions. The only distinction which remains significant
is that of transition rates of Francophones from English-language and
French-language schools, the so-called "mixed" schools being
calculated with the French-language schools.
The most important finding of this study is that of comparative overall
undergraduate participation rates. Up until the mid 1980s, the overall
Francophone participation rate had increased at approximately the same
rate as that of Ontario non-Francophones . The result had been a
continuing participation rate among Francophones of little more than half
that of the rest of the population. This study shows that by the
mid-1980s, participation rates of Ontario Francophones begin to rise
incrementally and continue up to 1994 at which time participation rates
reached 71.1% that of Ontario non-Francophones, a rate which reveals much
progress since the mid 1980s. Figure 1 shows this development over a 16
The movement in participation rates is particularly important because it
had been widely assumed among Ontario Francophones that the creation of
French-language secondary schools at the end of the 1960s would
automatically translate into higher postsecondary participation rates.
This was partially true in that participation rates did follow the
increase in participation rates of the general population. But there had
been no relative increase until the mid 1980s, at which time the relative
participation rates begin to increase slowly.
Fig.1 - General participation rate of Ontario
Francophones and non-Francophones, 1979-1994
One of the research tasks embedded in this study was to determine if the
creation of La Cité collégiale had had an adverse effect
upon university enrollments. There had been some informal speculation that
Francophone university enrollments had reached a ceiling and that the new
French-language college would draw enrollments away from the universities.
This study shows that there appears to have been no discernible impact on
Perhaps even more revealing are the comparative participation rates in
the major field of education (teacher education, leisure studies,
kinesiology). The field of education is the only major field of studies in
which an Ontario Francophone has a high probability of studying in French
and then, after graduation, working in French. The results as shown in
Figure 2 are eloquent. It is another example, often noted in minority
contexts, of the results of a combination of two major factors: the
availability of appropriate educational services and the availability of
job opportunities in French.
Fig. 2 Participation rates of Ontario
Francophones and non-Francophones, 19791994, Education
Needless to say, other fields of study do not show the same progress. It
would appear that the participation rate in various fields is related to
the availability of programs in French. In those fields in which there are
large numbers of programs available in French, the participation rate
approaches that of non-Francophones. In fields of study in which there are
few programs available in French, the participation rate is
One of the more disquieting trends appearing in the data is related to
the enrollments of full-time and part-time students. Up until 1992 almost
half of Francophone university students were part-time students. From 1989
to 1994 the number of part-time Francophone students fell by 29.0% while
the number of full-time students continued to rise, such that by 1994 only
approximately one-third of Francophone students were part-time students.
Non-Francophone part-time enrollments fell by some 7.7% to 28.7% of total
enrollments, increasing the already heavy weighting in favour of full-time
Much has already been said and written about the purported trend to
part-time studies. These latest data indicate a change in the trends, such
that there is a more recent tendency toward full-time studies. More
precisely, full-time enrollments continue to rise (non-Francophone
enrollments peaked in 1992) while part-time enrollments fall off
imperceptibly in the case of the general population and dramatically in
the case of Ontario Francophones. Given the importance of this phenomenon,
we reproduce the comparative data in the following table.
Table 2 Full-time and part-time undergraduate
enrollments, Ontario Francophones and non-Francophones, 19891994
|Source: Ministry of
Education and Training. USIS. various years
Retention rates in bilingual institutions
Comparative retention rates based on stock data are provided for
Francophones and non-Francophones in the three bilingual institutions:
Ottawa, Laurentian, and Glendon for the period 19821994. The
retention rates are quite similar for Francophones and non-Francophones in
each institution, suggesting that the attrition phenomenon is
institution-specific rather than language-specific. In all instances the
retention rate of Francophones is slightly higher at the beginning of the
period 19821994 and slightly lower at the end.
On the other hand, retention rates vary wildly from one institution to
another. In one institution the numbers of enrollments actually increase
over a three-year span, whereas in another they fall off by 66% over the
same three-year span. It could be alleged that this attrition rate is due
to large numbers of transfers to part-time studies in the same institution
or to full-time studies in other institutions, but as we have seen above,
part-time enrollments are down significantly among Francophones. If there
are large numbers of transfers to another institution, then that would
cover the trace of other departures from the receiving institution. No
matter how one analyses the problem, it appears that retention in the
institutions for which we have provided data needs to be examined further.
There is an important loss of full-time enrollments that requires
The most important finding relative to college enrollments is in fact a
non-event. After 1991 student enrollment data for the OCIS files were no
longer added to and by 1994 were unavailable except for gross total
enrollments. We were able to make system-wide Francophone enrollment
projections for the academic year 1993-94 on the basis of partial indices
from the 1992 data which were considered still valid. After 1993 it became
evident that those projections were simply too tenuous to attempt with any
degree of confidence.
In July 1995, faced with the requirement to reduce the numbers of
Ministry staff, the Ministry of Education and Training chose to
discontinue OCIS, with the intent being to have another body external to
he government assume this data collection function. As of this writing,
future directions have yet to be determined for this service. This gap
arrived at a particularly inopportune moment for Ontario Francophones.
With the creation of La Cité collégiale in 1990 and the
transfer of programs from the bilingual colleges to the new
French-language colleges, Le Collège Boréal and Le Collège
des Grands Lacs, it would have been particularly important to be able to
trace population flows of Ontario Francophones from one type of college to
the next and the impact of the new colleges on the participation rate of
This report does make some tentative projections regarding the pattern
of student flows from bilingual college to French-language college on the
basis of the pattern of enrollments during the early years of La Cité
collégiale, but a full-scale analysis of enrollments by field of
study and by program was unfortunately impossible.
CAAT participation rates
In our previous study we had noted that the economic recession of 1982
had had a particularly deleterious effect on Francophone participation
rates at the college level. At the time there had been an effort
throughout the college system to cut back on costs, and in the bilingual
colleges this often took the form of combining courses which previously
had been offered in both languages, to the obvious detriment of courses
offered in French. This strategy was particularly evident in the division
of Technology where it was often alleged that the language of technology
was in any case English, thus the combining of courses was to be
considered an advantage for the students.
Yet the result was a dramatic fall in Francophone enrollments. Since the
drop in enrollments was concentrated in the area of technology, the impact
was felt more among Francophone males. The result was twofold: enrollment
levels did not reach 1982 levels until 1990, and the ratio of females to
males reached 60% of total Francophone enrollments.
Fig. 3 shows the overall pattern of participation rates for Francophones
and non-Francophones alike. The 1993 participation rates reflect
projections based upon the partial availability of enrollment data due to
the gradual weakening of the OCIS data. It will be noted that
participation rates start to rise in 1990, precisely at the moment of the
opening of La Cité collégiale. It would appear that they are
once again approaching the rates of the non-Francophone population. In
addition, the distribution of males and females is once again almost
Fig. 3 - Comparative participation rates of Ontario
Francophones and non-Francophones, CAATs,
Distribution of males and females
One of the more perplexing situations in French-language education is
the long-time preponderance of females over males. At the time of our
previous study in 1989 Francophone females had reached approximately 60%
of postsecondary enrollments, at both college and undergraduate level. The
ascendancy of Francophone females at the undergraduate level had begun
before we began collecting data in 1979 whereas that of non-Francophone
females came about much later in 1987. As we have seen previously, the
lead of Francophone female participation rates at the college level began
in the early 1980s following a large decline of male enrollments.
Fig. 4 below summarizes the relative participation rates of Ontario
Francophones and non-Francophones at the undergraduate level. The slope of
the curves indicates that the participation rate is increasing faster for
both Francophone males and females alike and that among Francophones the
participation rate of females is increasing faster than that of males.
However, the 1994 data suggest a slight decline for Francophone males. In
addition, the gap between Francophone males and females is almost double
that between non-Francophone males and females.
Fig. 4 - Comparative participation rates of Ontario
Francophone and non-Francophone males and females, 1979-1994
There is of course the entire question of gender segregation according
to program or field of study and this question was addressed to some
extent in the study. An index of concentration was provided for each field
of study which provides comparisons of the relative importance of each
field of study and of each of the three dozen more popular programs among
Taken in isolated fashion, the participation rates would appear to be
slower to respond at the undergraduate level than at the college level.
While Francophone college participation rates fell rapidly following the
1982 economic recession, they appear to have rebounded rather more quickly
than participation rates at the undergraduate level. The latter have
demonstrated a steady yet slower progression. Looked at in this fashion,
it would appear that college enrollments are more responsive to contextual
features. This interpretation is certainly not to be eschewed.
However, if participation rates are lower at the undergraduate level
then theoretically at least, participation rates should be correspondingly
higher at the college level. The relative success of Francophones at the
college level should thus be interpreted as a relative lack of success,
given their lower participation rate at the undergraduate level. The
expectation would be for a correspondingly higher participation rate at
the college level. We do not make the opposite argument that a lower
college participation rate should be compensated for by a higher
undergraduate participation rate.
Nonetheless, it is important to note an overall appreciation which is
that both levels of postsecondary instruction have demonstrated since the
mid 1980s a growing responsiveness to Francophone aspirations. This
responsiveness is demonstrated by increasing participation rates. One
could dispute if it is enough or if it is rapid enough. What is clear is
that since the mid-1980s the accessibility and participation of
Francophones have finally begun to improve relative to that of the
Normand Frenette be can reached by e-mail at: