News Local

Change will hurt ESL: educator

By Ben Bulmer, 24 hours Vancouver



Changes to federally funded English-as-a-second-language programs will dramatically decrease educational opportunities for newcomers, says one community college faculty member.

The federal government is cancelling the Canada-B.C. Immigration Agreement on April 1, which includes transfer funds to cover ESL teaching in public post-secondary institutions. The B.C. government has announced $10.5 million in one-time funding for ESL, but according to critics this is $17 million short of current funding.

“We are funded at about 44% of what we were funded last year,” said Karen Shortt, president of Vancouver Community College faculty association.

With around 9,000 ESL students per year attending VCC and 170 ESL teachers, Shortt said there will definitely be layoffs. She said she is unsure about what would happen to the 1,200 students registered for next semester.

Shortt accused the government of lacking vision, saying if people don’t have English skills they can’t enter the job market and become taxpayers.

“We have doctors, nurses, engineers, accountants who need English as a second language,” said Shortt. “They have their degree, they have their job training, they bring their families, they come here and then they’re not working at their capacity.”

B.C. minister of advanced education, Amrik Virk, said in an email statement: “Our priority is to ensure immigrants can continue to access the ESL training that they need to succeed, to find jobs and to help the province meet the demands of the labour market.”

VCC has received $4.7 million in one-time funding from the BC Liberals.

“This is not meant to fully fund the ESL programs, it is a one-time transition funding that will, in part, ensure students can continue in ESL programs past April 1,” said Virk.

All ESL courses are providing free of charge, as the college is not allowed to charge tuition for federally funded programs for adults, said Shortt.






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