lang.jpg (21591 bytes) Government and College Disagree on Standard for Language Proficiency

Minister of Education Janet Ecker and the College of Teachers disagree on the threshold for requiring proof of language proficiency for new Ontario teachers. On matters like these, it’s the Minister’s prerogative to determine policy.

The College is reluctantly preparing to implement a lower standard of language proficiency for new teachers in the province than it had originally recommended. The lower standard is being set out in regulation by Education Minister Janet Ecker as part of the government’s teacher testing program.

Council Chair Donna Marie Kennedy said that the government’s amendment to the College’s proposed regulation "provides the public with little assurance that this requirement – the first plank of the government’s teacher testing platform – will in fact contribute to the certification of individuals who meet the standards that we all desire for Ontario teachers."

The College had proposed, in June 1999, that all applicants to the College who have not done both their postsecondary studies and their teacher training in English or French would have to pass a language proficiency test.

A year later, Education Minister Janet Ecker responded, informing the College that language proficiency tests would be required only of applicants from outside Ontario and only those who have not taken their teacher training in English or French.

The College Council voted unanimously at its June 9 meeting to request the Minister to reconsider.


In replying to the Minister’s decision, College Chair Donna Marie Kennedy said that the government’s amendment would "seriously undermine the College’s ability to guarantee to Ontario students and their parents that the new teachers we certify will have enough command of English or French to communicate effectively in the classroom and meet the standards of practice for the teaching profession."

"The teaching profession believes strongly that it is in the public interest to implement a language proficiency requirement that would ensure that – at the very least – teachers will have a mastery in English or French of their subject matter," Kennedy wrote.

"For that reason, we believe that it is essential that applicants for certification successfully pass language tests unless they have completed both their undergraduate degree (BA, BSc, etc.) and their teacher education program (BEd) in English or French. For tech teachers, we believe applicants should be required to complete both their technological qualifications and their teacher training in English or French, or provide proof that they are sufficiently proficient in one of our languages of instruction to be effective teachers."

Kennedy also said Ecker’s language competence requirement "will fall well short of the expectations of the broad range of stakeholders the College consulted on this issue."


"Your proposal would result in a lower expectation of language proficiency for teachers in Ontario than the requirements for nurses or pharmacists…," Kennedy noted.

The projected change means that applicants educated and trained in Russian or Mandarin could emigrate to Ontario and upon successful completion of an eight-month program at a faculty of education, be licensed to teach in Ontario whether they could communicate effectively with students or not, wrote Kennedy.

"The teaching profession in Ontario is very conscious that the communication skills required to be a successful teacher are of a considerably higher order than those required to be a successful student – even at a faculty of education."

Kennedy also reminded the Minister that the College’s Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession, which the Minister has praised in the past, requires teachers to have well-developed communication skills. The standards set out the expectations that teachers will be able to "demonstrate ways to make knowledge and skills accessible to others, communicate and collaborate with parents and others in the education of students, communicate clear, challenging and achievable expectations for students, and report and provide ongoing feedback of individual achievement to students and parents," said Kennedy.

For these reasons, the College Council is "firmly opposed" to the government’s proposed change, said the College Chair.

In a reply dated June 20, Minister Ecker re-stated her intention of limiting the requirement for proof of language competence to those applicants from outside Ontario who have not taken their teacher education in English or French.


Recently, the College recommended approximately 20 amendments to Regulation 184/97, Teachers’ Qualifications to bring it in line with new Ministry of Education policy and ministry-mandated changes to the curriculum.

In her letter of June 20, the Minister stated that a review of all the proposed amendments to the regulation "will be done in the context of the government’s overall teacher testing program."

Although the language proficiency amendment was listed in the most recent submission to government, it was originally sent to the ministry in June 1999 in the hopes of getting it implemented for December 1999.


The Ontario College of Teachers was established in 1997 to allow teachers to regulate their own profession.

The Ontario College of Teachers Act states that in carrying out its responsibilities the College has a duty to "to serve and protect the public interest."

Section 40 of the Act sets out the College’s authority to make regulations with respect to "requirements, including but not limited to standards, qualifications, examinations and experience requirements, for the issuance of certificates of qualification and registration and providing for exemptions from those requirements."

However, the Section 12 (1) (c) of the Act also stipulates that the Minister may "require the Council to make, amend or revoke a regulation."

"If the Minister requires a Council to do anything under subsection (1), the Council shall, within the time and in the manner specified by the Minister, comply with the requirement and submit a report to the Minister respecting the compliance.

"If the Minister requires the Council to make, amend or revoke a regulation under clause (1) (c) and the Council does not do so within 60 days, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, make, amend or revoke the regulation."

The 60-day period by which the College was required to act according to the Minister’s instructions ended on August 5.

This is the second time that the government has overruled the College on a proposed regulation. The College election is being conducted under different rules than the ones proposed in the regulation the College Council sent to the government for approval. In that case, Council also declined to modify the proposed regulation during the 60-day period the Act requires before the government can move to amend or create a different regulation than one approved by Council.

Communication between teacher and students must cover a range of language skills – writing, speaking, comprehending – that can clearly convey sometimes difficult or complex concepts in all subjects.