Report out from Karen Shortt, President, Vancouver Community College Faculty Association
October 19, 2017
On Monday, October 16th, a group of 11 faculty members from across the Province met with the Assistant Deputy Minister and three Government policy developers to discuss the development of policy for ABE and EAL program delivery. I was at the table along with Taryn Thomson from College & Career Access and Lynn Horvat from Basic Education. The other faculty representatives at the table were from Camosun, North Island, College of the Rockies, Vancouver Island University, Kwantlen and the College of New Caledonia.
Being consulted at the initial stages of policy development has been one of our main concerns for many years. You may recall that in December of 2014 the then-Liberal Government suddenly and without consultation re-instated tuition for all post-secondary developmental programs. The announcement by the newly-elected Government in August, 2017 of the reinstatement of tuition-free ABE and EAL included a commitment to engage with educators “to establish policies that ensure domestic students in ABE and EAL programs are able to progress and complete their studies and transition to post-secondary education or employment…and that the programs remain sustainable within institutions.”
We were very pleased to be invited by the Ministry to come to Victoria and engage in what we hope is the first of many ongoing discussions. We prepared the attached Briefing Note dividing our key discussion points into three areas: Philosophy, Stable Funding, and Student Support. The Government representatives listened intently and asked specific questions. However, we were told at the beginning of the meeting that discussing funding was ‘out of scope’. Regardless, we stressed many times during the two-hour meeting that institutions need to be directed via policy to deliver a targeted number of developmental FTEs. And, to support this targeted FTE policy, there must be stable, ongoing, and sufficient program funding.
At one point, the Ministry displayed a chart showing overall declining post-secondary student enrolment since 2009. They asked for our input on why this had happened. Lynn Horvat responded that this data actually supports our general point that there has been an erosion of funding in all of education over the past 16 years, concurrent with a substantial and constant erosion of all social service funding across many related Ministries. The result has severely impacted post-secondary students and their ability to come to school and this is the fundamental reason for declining enrolment.
Other key discussion points we stressed included a much needed shift in policy to a view of ABE and EAL learners as life-long learners with complex lives and backgrounds who require adequate time, including “stop-outs” where needed, in order to progress. Success and progress, we argued, should be measured by individual students according to their own yardsticks. Notions of success being tied to jobs is a narrow view that discounts the many other benefits that this group of learners gains, such as increased health, personal development, citizenship, confidence, pride from being a student, and improved chances in the workplace. We argued, in short, that to invest in ABE and EAL students is to invest in society as a whole. In addition, we advocated for consistency in Financial Aid Offices across the Province, and a reworking of the Adult Upgrading Grant and its rules away from Canada Student Loan rules. Overall, we suggested a learner-defined approach over a more narrow approach of education for employment, and the importance of setting policies for developmental education that answer the calls for action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report.
At the conclusion of this meeting, we were told not to expect too much too soon and that this consultative process involved many constituencies. We will keep you posted, and we will continue to advocate.
President – VCCFA