almost a year the provincial government has been promising some news
about its funding commitment to English Language Training programs
across the province. The news was supposed to address the glaring
shortfall in provincially sourced.
The pressure to make good on the province’s commitment to ESL programs
has come from the concerted campaigns of faculty and students across the
public system who fear the worst: the BC government would walk away from
its responsibility to provide high quality English Language Training
programs at public post-secondary institutions.
With that as a backdrop, it’s easy to understand why faculty and
students were keen to see the content of the government’s big
announcement on post-secondary funding that was released December 4th.
Adding to the suspense was the fact that the announcement included
details from both the Ministry of Advanced Education as well as the
Ministry responsible for BC’s K-12 system. However, despite references
to “improvements” and “support for low-income students enrolling in
courses including ESL”, the announcement was a setback for anyone hoping
for better or more affordable access to core programs in post-secondary
Part of the setback comes in the form of tuition fees for Adult Basic
Education programs, fees that had been eliminated in 2008, but as of
December 4, 2014 were reinstated. For thousands of adult learners who
looked to post-secondary institutions to either get their Grade 12 or
complete needed prerequisites for career advancement, ABE programs are
critical and the fact that they have been tuition-free for the last six
years made them that much more accessible. The announcement has changed
all of that. The proposal to offer needs based grants as an offset to
the tuition fee announcement only adds a layer of administration and
uncertainty to students who can be easily discouraged from taking these
upgrading programs in the first place.
The news for ESL students was not much better either. Starting January
1, 2015, ESL programs will follow the same path as ABE programs when it
comes to tuition fees, a move that will disrupt the already difficult
life of students who are trying to improve their English language
competencies to secure better job prospects.
The fact that both announced changes come this close to Christmas has
not been lost on those of us who have been campaigning so hard to get a
fair deal for students through better funding from the provincial
government. A miserly government has decided that instead of opening
doors for our students, they are finding new ways to slam them shut. BC
deserves better. So too do our students.
This lump-of-coal announcement won’t work and we won’t quit campaigning
until the provincial government finds the right answer for these
Copyright (c) 2009-2014 The Valley Voice