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.



Federal NDP shares its plans for Adult Education

On September 8 a network of adult educators and researchers sent each political party a list of questions about their adult literacy and adult education policy. Today the network received this response from the NDP.  Among their policy intentions are:

Support for core funding for literacy programs;

Respect for the constitutional rights to literacy and language services in minority language communities;

The integration of literacy and essential skills education in Labour Market Agreements (the current Canada Jobs Grant excludes people with low literacy skills and the unemployed); and,

The re-direction of EI funds to support the education and training of people experiencing unemployment. Responses from the CPC, Greens and LPC will be shared on this blog as and when the network receives them.

CDEAF – EN – 091815

2013 survey of ABE students

This 2013 survey of ABE and ESL students  in Development Programs in Post-Secondary Institutions concluded that :
“Respondents’ educational aspirations and achievements align not only with their reasons for enrolling but also the development-based purpose of ABE studies. ABE course completion lays the needed groundwork for success in post-secondary education and labour market attachment.” [Emphasis added]. (Government of British Columbia, 2013, p. 46).
So why the rush to cut ABE and ESL courses? Among the many interesting findings in this survey, 70% of ABE and ESL students pursued further studies in post-secondary institutions following their completion of ABE and ESL courses, leading to certificates, diplomas and degrees. 95% said that ABE had prepared them academically to succeed in these courses and almost all respondents intended to pursue further education.
The majority of respondents also said that their ABE courses did help them in their work lives even though this was not their original intention in enrolling. How will overall PSI enrolment be affected by the inevitable decline in ABE and ESL student participation that will result from the recently announced cuts?

ABE Tuition Hurts Working Poor

The working poor will be penalized as they strive for a basic education. See, Vancouver Community College’s Faculty Association, President, Karen Shortt’s letter in the Vancouver Sun.
“…as the new school semester starts, thousands of B.C.’s working poor will be hit hard with tuition fees in excess of $500 per month for basic adult literacy…. And this is taking place in a province that boasts a budget surplus of over $400 million.”
Student survey results show that over 70% of students in Basic Education at VCC juggle paid work with going to school. This figure is even greater when unpaid work (e.g., childcare and eldercare) is factored in.
Student Survey on Working and Going to School, October 2014

BC ABE Tuition Fee Policy and Adult Upgrading Grants Promote “Cream-Skimming”

By allowing pubic post-secondary institutions to charge tuition fees for Adult Basic Education, the BC government is rendering Adult Upgrading Grant funding ineffectual for most ABE students. Students who can get graduated the fastest will benefit from funding. The effect is “cream-skimming”. Students who face multiple barriers to education, need more time to complete a basic education, and need it most will not get served.

Students Caught in BC ABE Funding Crisis

Further to Trevor Flynn’s moving experience of a student caught in the BC ABE tuition fee crisis (The Tyee, January 15, 2015, and posted earlier in this blog), students who face multiple barriers to education are well represented in BC’s post-secondary ABE programs. Read a sampling of Vancouver Community College, Basic Education Department (Fundamental Level ABE) student profiles excerpted from Re-Framing the Conversation: Respecting Adult Basic Education in BC.

ABE Learner Profiles, pp. 7-8

In BC post-secondary, Fundamental Level ABE students have access to stable, quality programming tailored to their unique needs. Upon completion of Basic Education at VCC, students also have access to further upgrading, up to and including high school graduation, training programs, practicums, and better employment prospects.

Click below to access the full document.

Re-Framing the Conversation – Respecting Adult Basic Education in BC (Dec 2014)

Tyee article on ABE cuts

This article appeared today in The Tyee, written by Katie Hyslop. It outlines the devils in the details regarding the cuts to ABE, noting that students enrolled in school district ABE are not eligible for the Adult Upgrading Grant, and that the $9 million the Ministry of Education will save in not funding ABE will be re-invested in the K – 12 system.

The article focus on the consequences of this policy for a person with health difficulties who experienced interrupted schooling. Do you have stories of how learners and local communities will be effected by the cuts to ABE? Please post in the comments section or let us know and we can post the story for you.

Obama to propose tuition-free post-secondary education

President Obama is about to propose a bold new policy to make the first two years of post secondary education in the country’s community colleges tuition- free. The criteria is that students progress in their studies, attend at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. The policy is introduced in recognition of the role of post-secondary education in promoting social and income equality,  and in drawing in thousands of people who would not have considered pursuing further education. While the state college system in the US offers grants to low income learners, these have not been successful to attract low and lower middle income adults into colleges because of the many other costs associated with education. Premier Wynne in Ontario has reportedly offered a ‘luke warm‘ response to the idea of tuition-free post secondary education, because she said it may have the effect to limit access as ‘subsidies will not be available to everyone’. But Obama wants to make post secondary education free to everyone and as accessible as a high school diploma.

BC wants to be an innovative centre of education…

Patti Bacchus, former Chair of the Vancouver Board of Education and a progressive voice for adult education and public education in general, tweeted news of this upcoming education forum and provincial road show led by Peter Fassbender. As Patti notes, the 5 international and esteemed educators leading the forum are all men, and located within paradigms of measurement, the ‘science’ of learning, and that ambiguous term ‘innovation’. The Ministry wants to stake out BC as a world leader in education and in preparing children “for jobs that don’t exist yet.” And apparently new announcements are coming soon of what this innovative new system will look like. Are adults who seek academic upgrading and new skills in this new economy part of the plan?