The federal government of Canada has cut $17 million in funding for adult ESL training in the province of British Columbia (B.C.), specifically funding delivered through public colleges.
There is a bit of blurriness around the jurisdiction of adult ESL training. The federal government is responsible for immigration and settlement, but the provincial government is responsible for advanced education.
Until recently, the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement gave some clarity: the feds annually provided B.C. with $22 million for newcomer ESL training, and $17 million of that was administered through the Ministry of Advanced Education, meaning public colleges. New immigrants thus accessed ESL training at colleges for free tuition. This agreement has been terminated.
17 organizations are affected by the cut.
9,000 newcomers to Canada accessed these classes each year.
Vancouver Community College, which is the largest provider of adult ESL training in Western Canada, will lay off 150 of its 190 ESL teachers and essentially close its program.
The province has provided a one-time cash infusion of $17 million to help with the “transition”, but this will probably simply delay the crisis, and in the case of VCC, it is not even enough to delay losing teachers and programs.
Questionable new federal funding system
The federal government claims that it will continue to fund ESL training–just not through the Ministry of Advanced Education. Instead, organizations are meant to apply directly for the funding. So far, none of the applications from colleges have been accepted.
So who will get the funding? Non-profits and other immigrant-oriented organizations, which are not bound by union agreements and have lower operating costs. I have worked for three such organizations. They lack capacity and specialized classes for people who need higher level English and English for specific occupations.
What about provincial funding?
Since the provincial Liberal Party came into power, per student funding for post-secondary education has decreased by 13% and further reductions have been announced. Premier Christy Clark has encouraged colleges to enroll more international students, who are willing to pay thousands of dollars per term, to make up for lost funding. In short, it seems unlikely that this pro-privatization government will step in to support free classes for new immigrants.
Nevertheless, the website ESL Matters is encouraging people to write to Minister of Advanced Education, Amrik Virk, to demand increased funding for ESL training. The website also features stories from newcomers who need advanced English to live and work in B.C.
In my next post, I plan to follow up and talk about the crappy options left to newcomers to B.C. if this funding is permanently lost.
References / More Info:
- ESL Services Review: Current Practices and Critical Issues
- ESL Caucus Report: Making Sense: Reforms and renewals needed within BC’s English language training network
- The Tyee: ‘ESL matters!’ cry ralliers in protest of $17-million program cuts
- BC Newsroom: Funding to suport ESL transition
- Huffington Post: B.C. ESL Funding Cut At The Federal Level
- CBC: ESL program at Vancouver Community College axed
- Vancouver Sun: ESL cuts in B.C. could worsen skilled worker shortage
- Globe and Mail: ESL students in B.C. face funding uncertainty