Forum on Public Education March 5

School Boards and Post-Secondary Adult Learning/ABE are hosting a forum on ABE and Public Education on

March 5, 2015

at the

Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver

7 – 9 pm

Plans are for guest speakers, student speakers, MLAs, a live twitter feed, video clips of ABE success stories.

Watch the sad penguin video on ABE tuition cuts!

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Letters from ABE students

As the new tuition fee policy in ABE takes effect, there are reports that students are receiving unexpected fee notices and told they must pay to continue in their courses this term. One wonders how the one-time grant to post-secondary institutions to ‘help them transition’ to the new adult upgrading model is being used, if not for students like Damien Vilaysane who details his experience in a letter to the Ministry. The letter was posted on the new Facebook page Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right. Check it out!

Enbridge donates funds for Adult Basic Education digital delivery

According to the Prince George Citizen, Enbridge/Northern Gateway has stepped in to contribute $250,000 toward the development of a ‘digital delivery initiative’ that may, when completed three years from now, make ABE accessible to adults in rural areas in Northwest BC. The need for the DDI arose following cuts to the ABE program at satellites of the College of New Caledonia that the college seems to recognize left many adults with no access to basic education. Interestingly, the DDI aims to address many of the problems of the usual online learning offered adults through LearnNow such as access to a group to support learning and to an educator to teach content in real-time.

The DDI would establish synchronous, real-time video-link interactions among groups of students and their educator. The Enbridge/Northern Gateway donation will fund a classroom in Prince George to start, but curiously, with a pilot  among students taking university transfer courses in business.  According to the Prince George Free Press, Northern Gateway says this is very exciting  for the company.  Northern Gateway senior manager of community benefits and sustainable development Catherine Pennington:  “We believe education is the key to a brighter, sustainable community. This initiative opens up a whole new world of opportunities for learners.”

Ministry of Advanced Education re-instates funding for ABE for one year

In another surprise turn, the Ministry of Advanced Education announced on Friday, February 13 that they will re-instate 6.9 million to the 18 post-secondary institutions to “give them an opportunity to plan changes that would be needed if they decide to move to a tuition-based model”.

Peter Ewart of 250 news in Prince George has been writing consistently about the ABE cuts since they were announced December 4. See his ABE: Why screw up a good thing? Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.  In an analysis published today, he suggests that this one-time funding decision was in response to considerable pressure from educators, learners,employers and communities. He muses that It may also have been in response to the fact that given the provinces’ stated goal to create a seamless pathway from secondary to post-secondary education for students in the Northwest, the ABE tuition fee policy makes no sense.

But as Ewart notes, this recent decision offers only a reprieve and the risk that groups will have demobilized by the time the tuition policy is implemented next year.

Dark Days for ABE in BC: Letter from educator, Michael Szasz


Public adult education is being destroyed in British Columbia. The B.C. government’s cuts to English as Second Language (ESL) and to Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs in community colleges is a shortsighted—or blind—attack on public education.

Last year the B.C. government’s cuts caused Vancouver Community College to shut down almost all its ESL programs. Now, cutting tuition-free grade school level courses, the college will be “offering” the same upgrading classes for up to $1600 per term. For most adults in need of upgrading, this is prohibitive. It is also a revocation of the government’s long-standing commitment to helping adults help themselves by attending tuition-free upgrading courses to grade 12 level.

In the early 70s, there was new hope for undereducated adults. Community colleges all over B.C. started upgrading programs, so adults could improve their education and go on to career courses. (About 70 percent of adult learners do.) By the 1990s the value of community college upgrading was recognized by governments both provincially and federally through a commitment to tuition-free courses to Grade 12 level.

I’ve been retired from adult education for over ten years; it’s really sad to see it being destroyed now. Here’s just one example: recently I met a student who had been in one of my classes about twenty-five years ago. How had he fared? He is married and has two growing children. After he left VCC, he got a job with a technical firm; years later he was laid off again. But he could go back and take more training, has a new career, and he and his family are fine. Imagine if he had not had that initial upgrading. And multiply this example by thousands over the years—unemployed adults who need to retrain for a career, single parents who need to find work, people in almost any walk of life whose circumstances have changed. Now they have no way back up, no help, no hope.

These are truly dark times for public adult education in B.C. Much more, it’s the human, personal cost of each life hampered by lack of opportunity, the social cost in wasted potential, and eventually the cost to taxpayers in health, unemployment and other social ills that come from deprivation. Not to mention that government has moral and social obligations to taxpayers.

What has happened to Premier Christy Clark’s edict, “Families first”? Why is it that this government can invest billions in business initiatives and megaprojects, but less and less in people? Surely, if B.C. prospers according to plan, we will need a more educated workforce. We don’t need more people living on the street in poverty.

Michael Szasz