Youth Canada

What is ESL?

28-07-2008 by Cindy He

What is ESL?

English as a second language, or known as ESL, is a program for students who come to Canada from non-English speaking countries. ESL aims to provide language assistance to students in need and prepare those students for regular schooling.

When a non-English speaking student registers for a public elementary or secondary school in Canada, the school board in his region will conduct an English language test to examine his or her proficiency in English. Usually, the test consists of reading comprehension and writing. According to the test result, the student will be placed into an appropriate ESL class at his or her school. Depending on the size of the school and the number of ESL students, there may be several levels of ESL classes, one class for all ESL students, or even no ESL classes at all in the student’s school. It is also possible that non-English speaking students may not need to go through ESL if the test results show that their English is good enough. In that case, that qualified student directly enrolls in regular classes. However, this rarely happens.

ESL is a very comprehensive program. It teaches students speaking, writing, listening, and reading skills. ESL science and social studies are also available in some schools. This program immerses students in an all-English environment and helps them to improve their English language skills as quickly as possible. When teachers think that a student’s English is proficient, he or she then can go to regular classes.

Most ESL classes do not count towards high school credits. If a student cannot get out of ESL before Grade 11, the odds are that he or she probably will not graduate on time. For example, in BC, English 10, 11 and 12 credits are required for graduation. An ESL student is not allowed to take these regular English courses unless he or she gets out of the ESL program. Therefore, ESL is only a transitional phase. Regular classes are the ultimate goal.



CINDY HE is a grade twelve student at Magee Secondary in Vancouver, BC. Two years ago, her family immigrated to Canada from China. She went through ESL and now she is a regular student. This article is just some thoughts and knowledge she has about this unique program. She hopes it will be helpful.

Image courtesy of user "Donna *deestea*" at Flickr.com via Creative Commons License.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/deestea/130262190/

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