ARCHIVED - 8. Conclusion

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Greater opportunities for second-language learning in Canada’s universities are essential if the country wants to offer a true continuum of opportunities for students to learn the other official language—beginning at the elementary level, continuing through the secondary and post-secondary levels, and leading to a labour market where second-language skills are recognized as having added value.

It will therefore be critical to move forward and build on the findings of this study in order to improve second-language learning opportunities for Canadian students at university.

At the same time, while the issues and key areas for action are clear, it must be acknowledged that moving forward in this area will be challenging.

The current economic and financial context is very difficult for Canada’s universities. Second-language learning does not appear to be a high priority in this context. Institutions are not feeling a strong demand from students yet, although the demand is there. And universities are facing the need to address multiple and competing priorities for attention in a time of diminishing resources.

While governments are generally supportive, neither the Government of Canada nor the provincial and territorial governments have given clear indications that they are prepared to champion the issue and drive it forward. They need to build on existing initiatives and strengthen them, as well as develop new ones, in a way that clearly signals that second-language learning is an essential part of post-secondary education for university students across the country.

It must also be remembered that the autonomy and independence of institutions must be respected, and that situations differ widely across institutions and regions of the country. No single approach will be appropriate in all instances.

While these are important challenges to consider, Canada cannot afford not to act to improve second-language learning at the university level.

Canada’s economy is increasingly a knowledge economy in a world of disappearing borders and intense international competition. Language skills are more important than ever in this context. Our linguistic duality is an important part of Canada’s brand in the world. Our young people know the importance of speaking a second and even a third language, and want to learn.

Knowledge of both official languages by more Canadians is important for Canadian identity and unity, and our effective functioning as a country.

Moving forward will require leadership, commitment and action by all parties.

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