Policy Basics: ABE student voices & experiences

A couple of recent reports support the policy work that is underway in BC this fall. These reports bring adult basic education student voices and experiences to the forefront of discussion and inform guiding principles for educational policy.

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Complex Pathways in Adult Education – A Longitudinal Study, Jill Auchinachie and Alison Bowe, Sep 2017


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Survey of Student Persistence, Success and Retention for Adult Literacy Fundamental English Levels 3 – 4, Lynn Horvat, May 2017


Policy Discussions Underway: Moving forward on removing barriers to access for ABE students

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.

Karen Shortt
President – VCCFA
Office 604-688-6210
Cell 604-992-1464

ABE Policy Discussions: Emerging from a bleak period in BC’s social history and where we want to go

Provincial ABE policy discussions are underway, and we are pleased about that. Now, more than ever, we need to understand how BC Liberal government policy, for more than a decade, worked to diminish and destabilize adult basic education in the province. During our upcoming policy discussions we need to be frank about those failures and steer clear of bad policy that raises barriers and reduces access for ABE students. From the blog’s archives (Dec 2014), I am reposting Re-Framing the Conversation: Respecting Adult Basic Education in BC.  The report is a source of accessible information on adult education policies in BC and in Canada, neoliberal effects on access to education, policy rules, portraits of adult basic education students and statistics on public funding for adult education.


Policy Note by Suzanne Smythe: Lifting tuition fees for adult basic education is just the beginning

Suzanne Smythe is one of the BC educators who started the Adult Basic Education is a Basic Right! blog in response to the BC Liberals 2014 policy changes that ushered in a bleak period for adult basic education (ABE) learners in the province. Now it is August 2017, and the new BC NDP government has fulfilled a key election promise – the reinstatement of tuition-free ABE. Tuition-free ABE is one part of a larger discussion, and Symthe gives a welcome and full explanation here in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Policy Note (August 29, 2017).


Education must be seen as a core component of BC’s economic strategy – SFU President Andrew Petter

From Charlie Smith’s article in the Georgia Straight, May 28, 2016:

“Today, over 95,000 B.C. residents are not employed because they have not obtained a level of education adequate to meet current employers’ needs.’ And while some of this educational shortfall is in trades and applied skills, the largest gap, it turns out, is in bachelor- and graduate-level education.”

Part of the reason is that 57 percent of B.C. employers require applicants to have university degrees.


Petter told the Vancouver Board of Trade there needs to be a “greater appreciation for the role of human capital in advancing our position in the world economy”.

“Instead of calling upon universities and colleges merely to respond to predetermined labour market demands, we need to empower our institutions to develop our labour markets and to drive our economic future,” the SFU president said. “While our competitors in Europe and Asia invest in education as a primary feature of their economic strategies, we look to our natural resources and appear to regard education—pardon the pun—as secondary.”

Read the full article here.

SFU president Andrew Petter says education must be seen as a core component of B.C.’s economic strategy

By Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight, May 28, 2016