adult literacy and basic education in the 2017 Federal budget

Brigid Hayes’ ‘As I was saying….’ is informative blog on issues of adult literacy and basic education funding. Brigid has published an analysis of the Federal budget March 2017 from an adult education lens. I wonder how these new policies and budget items, particularly around access to loans and grants for adult literacy learners enrolled in PSIs will play out in BC, where the province has all but walked away from funding for adult education in colleges and universities.

Internet affordability day of action

ACORN Canada has launched a campaign for an affordable and accessible Internet for all Canadians. Access to the Internet is central to learning, employment and community participation, yet an increasing number of Canadians either do not have an Internet connection or must take money from their food or rent budget to stay online.

Read more about ACORN’s campaign and their report on Internet affordability here.

Seismic upgrades and ‘radical efficiency’: What the 95% might be about

On January 25, 2015 the Vancouver Board of Education unanimously voted to accept the Interim Long Range Facilities Plan recommending the closure and/or repurposing of up to 20 schools. The Ministry of Education, which not long ago promised to seismically upgrade unsafe schools, recently introduced a new ultimatum: ensure 95% enrolment across the district of Vancouver (and this applies to other districts too) or we will not agree to repair or replace unsafe schools’. The VBE trustees said they felt they had little choice but to agree to the plan. Indeed, no one wants our children, teachers and parents in unsafe schools, and it may be time for larger, older schools to be replaced. But is the Vancouver Board of Education getting played by a privatization agenda?

There was a moment of solemn unity among the trustees at the January 25 board meeting, as Trustee Joy Alexander named the consequences of voting for the plan, even as she agreed to do so: the future of adult education, special needs education, arts and music programs and community uses of school space such as childcare are all now in jeopardy. This is because these school programs are not recognized as legitimate school use of space; they do not “count” toward the 95% enrolment.

After the trustees voted to accept the Long-Range Plan and begin deliberations on school closures, Trustee Janet Fraser proposed a motion stating that the Vancouver Board of Education is working toward achieving 95% capacity as a Ministry requirement, not  because it believes this requirement supports its education mission.

Suffice it to say that this proposal was not well received among a few trustees who were worried such a motion would damage the ‘new positive relationship with the Ministry of Education’. When Trustee Fraser Ballantyne calmed down, he said he was sure that the 95% number could be negotiated with the Ministry. After all, no one is quite sure what data or rationale support it.

Another possibility is that it is no accident or oversight at all that the 95% capacity in VBE schools excludes adult education, special education and arts and music programs. In fact, tying seismic upgrading to school closures and ‘erasing’ programs fits neatly with the policy of ‘radical efficiency’ promoted by the Ministry of Education’s corporate partner, Global Education Leadership Program. The relationship between GELP and the BC Government was described in an article on the corporatization of education in BC by Katie Hyslop of The Tyee in 2012. Hyslop drew on the work of educator Tara Erkhe, who found a case study of GELPs work with the BC Government on the GELP website.  (The study is no longer there, but it can still be accessed in the Tyee article). In 2015, GELP affiliates were among the guest speakers at an invitation only ‘learning forum’ sponsored by the BC Ministry of Education. GELP motivates for a smaller role for government in the delivery of public services, including education, and a larger role for private sector partners, who they argue are better endowed with expertise and innovative ideas to improve the quality of public services while ‘saving money’.

In the context of the new ‘95% capacity or no seismic upgrades’ policy it’s worth taking another look at radical efficiency as explained by GELP affiliates Hannon, Patton and Tapperly in their Cisco-funded white paper:

“In examples of radical efficiency, erstwhile users of services frequently assume a more active role in their delivery, which serves to enhance the benefits of the service for these and other users and to reduce the costs of provision. Cost benefits come in the form of short-term savings arising from a reduction in the number of interventions made by professionals, as citizens take more of a role in managing their own solutions. Where services are delivered in the community rather than in expensive public buildings, decommissioning of space can provide opportunities to save money too” (2011, p. 8).

We have already seen in the ABE tuition policy and Vancouver Board of Education’s recent cuts to adult education that philanthropy groups, volunteers and other ‘erstwhile users of services’  are being asked to step in take ‘a more active role in delivery’ of public education. ‘Services’ such as adult education and arts and music education are being ‘moved into the community’ to ‘reduce the costs of provision’. And of course, this and persistent cuts to other areas of public education has had the effect to ‘reduce the number of interventions made by professionals’. The status of special needs education in the new BC education curriculum has been a concern for educators since 2012, when Rod Allen, former assistant deputy minister of education stated:

There will be ‘no labels and no medical model. In a 21st century personalised world, I’ll tell you what a special education looks like if you can tell me what a ‘normal’ education is.

Very compelling, no one likes labels or stigma. But read alongside the Ministry’s exclusions to the ‘95% capacity’ requirement, the seismic upgrade ultimatum seems the perfect lever to continue to enforce the ‘decommission of space’ and other ‘radical efficiencies’ on the public education system. Or it may not be. Whatever is actually happening, this is a time for public education’s most vulnerable stakeholders, including adult education, music and the arts, and special education, to stay united and pay very close attention.


ABE is an anti-poverty strategy: First Call’s 2015 Child Poverty BC Report Card

Access to affordable basic education for adults is an important anti-poverty strategy for families. The BC Government acknowledged this in 2007 when it announced the Education Guarantee. The restoration of the Education Guarantee, which the provincial government cancelled in 2014, is therefore a recommendation in First Call’s 2015 Child Poverty Report Card:

The provincial government should immediately restore the Education Guarantee to reinstate tuition-free adult basic education, to enable adults to upgrade secondary courses needed for entry to post-secondary programs, and for adults needing to learn English as an additional language (p. 50).

Other recommendations in the report concerning access to education and training for adults include:

  • #4: The provincial government should immediately end the clawback of federal maternity and parental leave benefits from those on income and disability assistance and allow all those on income and disability assistance to retain benefits while attending a post-secondary institution;
  • #12: The federal and provincial governments should intensify their efforts to help immigrants and refugees adjust to life in Canada by enhancing employment assistance, removing long-standing barriers to qualification for professionals trained abroad, making more language training available, and improving employment standards and human rights protections and enforcement.
  • #14: Federal and provincial government support for access to post-secondary education should be increased both to remove financial barriers for low-income students and to lower student debt levels. Specific policy options include tuition fee reductions, providing lower-income students with grants instead of loans and making student loans interest free.

The new Federal Government has announced plans to work with provinces to reduce poverty. As Federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos’ mandate letter asks him to:

“Lead the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress, in collaboration with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. Our strategy will align with and support existing provincial and municipal poverty reduction strategies”.

BC will need to develop an anti-poverty strategy very soon to align with the Federal Government’s plans; the First Call recommendations seem like a very good place to start.


The NDP provides the first response to questions on adult education and literacy

Brigid Hayes’ shares her thoughts on the NDP response to questions about their adult education electoral platform. We still hope to receive a response from the LPC and the CPC. Over 60 individuals and groups have signed the CDEACF call to ‘get adult education back on track’. You can read the CDEACF call and the NDP response here

As I was saying...

On September 8th, a statement from a network of organizations and researchers in adult education was released which included a series of questions for each of the political parties in the upcoming election (see my blog post: International Literacy Day – It’s time to get back on track).

Since that time, more than 60 people have added their names to the statement (you can read the original statement and the names of those who have signed on at

To date, we have received one response which is from the New Democratic Party – NDP Response. La versionfrançaisepeutêtre trouvé à:

I am hopeful that the other parties will respond soon so we can compare and contrast their various positions.

Here is the text of the NDP’s response:

  1. What are your commitments with regard to adult literacy and skills development?

NDP Response: Literacy and basic skills…

View original post 881 more words

Vancouver Sun editorial: Reverse the cuts to adult education

Today’s Vancouver Sun editorial calls for the reinstatement of the Education Guarantee or at the very least, a policy that ensures youth and adults have access to a basic education so necessary for employment, earnings and quality of life. The editorial cites  a recent report by Margaret White and Charlie Naylor that argues the Education Guarantee, by providing a pathway to further education, was an anti-poverty strategy that BC cannot do without. The cancellation of the Education Guarantee has resulted in steep declines in adult education enrolment this Fall, begging the question: Who wins by cutting off access to basic education for thousands of BC adults?