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PRIORITIES FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

A Brief to the Ministry of Education from the BC Teachers’ Federation, August 2017 

Adult Education Access

The issue

Adult education is denied to many who need access. Adults have multiple motivations for seeking to access adult education. Many need to upgrade their qualifications to apply to post-secondary programs, others would like to complete their Grade 12 graduation credentials, or new immigrants may wish to learn one of the official languages. 

Background

Prior to 2014–15 with the imposition of tuition fees by government, individuals were able to access tuition-free courses in adult education. Since this period, enrolment has decreased from 25,000 in 2012–13 to 16,000 in 2015–16, and some districts have closed programs. Tuition fees for adult learners are prohibitive and have clearly had serious impacts on enrolment.

Many students must overcome multiple barriers to participate in education, even when courses are tuition-free. For these students, adult education offers the potential of higher employment rates and wages, critical factors in escaping poverty. Tuition fees create prohibitive barriers for these students.

According to Statistics Canada data, knowledge of languages and educational attainment significantly affects income and employment among Canadian immigrants. In 2013, an immigrant with knowledge of English had an average annual income of $30,000, compared to $12,600 for an immigrant who knew neither English nor French.

Adult education offers the additional chances for individuals to improve their education and contribute more fully to all aspects of society—a win for both the individual and the social good.

In August 2017, the new BC NDP government reversed the previous government’s cuts. There are still some more courses (e.g., Social Studies 11, First Peoples courses) that should be added to the list of funded courses, and there should be an examination of how the funding is allocated to school districts.

Key recommendations

Recommendation 1

Restore adult education to the education guarantee in the School Act, as per its pre-2012 scope, and immediate provision of the necessary funding to reverse adult education cuts and program closures made during the spring of 2017.

Recommendation 2

Ensure schools receive funding for adult students on par with Grades 5–12 students.

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