The BC Teachers’ Federation and the Adult Educators’ Provincial Specialist Association are calling on the Ministry of Education to reverse its decision to cut by half the funding for many secondary school courses that adults formerly could take for free.
BCTF surveys of teachers of adult education show that many of their students are living in poverty and can’t afford tuition fees, so charging for these courses will further exclude students who are already marginalized. “That means they will miss out on an enriching education, and our society will miss out on having citizens who are better prepared to take a full part in the economic and social life of their communities,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
Chris Murphy, president of the adult educators’ association, decried the funding cut as short-sighted and unfair. “This is blocking access to a great number of students, many of whom are barely affording rent,” Murphy said. “It affects not only our 18- or 19-year-old students, but also their parents, who want their kids to be able to upgrade and get into university or college.”
The “education guarantee” put into place by the current government several years ago encouraged adults to continue their education, whether to upgrade their credits to get into post-secondary programs or to keep their minds growing with new challenges. One of the central concepts of our current knowledge economy is the need for “lifelong learning.” That is exactly what the education guarantee promoted, but is being lost by this government education cut.
“The growth of the ‘education guarantee’ over just a few years is a testament to the value of the idea,” Lambert said. “Now, the province is cutting expenditures and many adults will be cut off from this educational lifeline to a better future.”
Government has suggested that these adults will be able to take courses online. For some people, that is fine. However, those who can’t afford $400–$500 per course often also can’t afford a computer and Internet connection, both essentials for online education. The federal government’s recent decision to eliminate funding for the CAP program that gave money to libraries and community centres to provide free computer and Internet use will further limit these students’ access to online courses.
“They won’t be able to take courses where they can interact with a live teacher and they won’t have access to the technology that is touted as an alternative,” Lambert said. “The province should be expanding educational opportunities, not reducing them. It is precisely during uncertain times that open access to education is especially important.”