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October 28, 2017 5:56 am

Adult Basic Education in BC – Why screw up a good thing? – Part 3

Friday, February 6, 2015 @ 3:45 AM

By Peter Ewart

As noted in the previous articles in this series (Part 1 and Part 2), the provincial government has recently announced that it will be cutting funding to Adult Basic Education (ABE) in the province, resulting in many ABE students no longer being eligible to receive tuition-free upgrading courses.  Instead, fees could be hiked up to as much as $1600 per semester or $530 per course.

One of the remarkable things about ABE in the province is the keenness and enthusiasm that instructors have for the program as well as the high motivation and drive of the students.

Melinda Worfolk is an instructor in the College and Career Preparation program (CCP) at the College of New Caledonia.  She comments that, for many students, ABE is “the key to a better chance at life” providing them “the opportunity to become fully participating citizens, engaged and invested in their communities.”

Richard Giroday, a long-time teacher in School District #57, reflects on his experience teaching ABE students:  “I think of the many students I have had who saw a new goal in life and worked so hard to attain it, despite many barriers, including single moms who had barely enough to make ends meet.”

Indeed, there are many success stories in the Prince George region.  For example, Kaylei is a 26 year old woman who has taken a number of ABE courses at CNC.  Like many who take ABE, she has faced significant challenges in her life.  “Before I started the CCP program,” she explains, “I was very limited as to what jobs I could get because I didn’t finish high school.  All I had was my grade 9, and it was starting to impact my life negatively… I had a very hard childhood and simply could not focus on school anymore.”

Kaylei then tried distance education but found that she could not learn from home and needed to be in a class with a teacher.  She used her savings to take off time from work and take ABE courses at CNC (note: ABE students are not eligible for student loans).  “Luckily for me,” she comments, “there were no tuition fees, only a small amount for other fees.”  Through hard work, she was able to upgrade her skills and eventually obtain a diploma.  She now works as an auto insurance agent.

In 1997, Tracy had been out of school for 20 years, had three children, and was working at a low paying job.  She had not taken Math or Science beyond grade 10.  However, she was able to enrol in the CCP program at the College for free, and take Math 030 & 045, as well as ABE science courses.  Eventually, she went on to UNBC, obtained a joint math and chemistry degree, and, in 2011, a Master’s Degree in Mathematics.  She is now a full time college mathematics instructor.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important the CCP program was to me,” Tracy maintains.  “Receiving an education is an expensive process.  Tuition would have made the program unavailable to me and will make it unavailable to so many others.  My story is one of success and my success began in the CCP program.”

Like Tracy, Kristopher was out of school for a number of years.  As he puts it, “People change, life happens and we find ourselves needing further education later in life, but where do we start when high-school grades from 15 years earlier have absolutely no weight on college application.”  Without free CCP classes at the college, his return to school to take up a degree in nursing would have been hindered.

One of the things that is most inspiring about ABE students is their sheer doggedness and determination to obtain their education.  Shelby’s dream is to become a Respiratory Therapist, which requires a high level of math and science skills.  She had to take ABE math 045 twice in order to pump her grade up enough to meet the program entrance requirements, but she eventually achieved this.

However, with the tuition fee hike, Shelby fears that she may not be able to complete other required ABE science courses.  “Working full time, paying rent, car payments, [and] insurance, among other things, is already too much on my plate,” she says, “and I have had to take this semester off which is heartbreaking as I am so close to moving away to continue my studies at University.”

Deanna works as a Health Care Aide in a long-term care facility.  Her plan is to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and she has taken a number of ABE courses to qualify.  Thanks to this tuition-free upgrading, she comments, she and others can now work towards their goals.  “Please don’t take that [opportunity] away from future students,” she asks.

Perhaps Deanna’s request is one that Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson should listen to.  After all, their own government has promised to provide “a clear and seamless path” from high school to workplace.

Ministers Fassbender and Wilkinson, don’t penalize hard work and initiative.  Reward it.

This is the final article in this series.


Peter Ewart is a writer and instructor based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca   




Count me as another ABE success story. I was a high school drop-out who went to work in the woods and after 20 years of being a labourer, went back to school at grade 9 and now have multiple degrees and good work as a mental health professional. I pay lots of taxes and pump my after-tax dollars back into the community. I greatly appreciate the boost my early adult education program gave me; the teachers I had laid the foundation for the rest of my academic achievements. The idea of making those least able to pay for anything past the necessities of life when education is the gateway to so much more, is not just wrong-headed but insane.

Hear ,hear krusty . It’s more than insane but there will be much more to come from this uneducated , imoral , uncaring and clueless government . Eduction is the very foundation of our society . Education empowers . Cc’s mantra should be , you won’t recognise Bc when I’m don’t with it . Just like the guy at the other end of her leash .

And this announcement is hard on the heels after the public learning that the Liberals have left millions on the table in unspent federal funding for immigrant language training. JohnyBelt is always arguing about the gov’ts ability to pay when the real issue is in the current government’s mismanagement of the funds they currently have available.

The theme of screwing up and throttling the funding for the disadvantaged segment of our adult community is repeated, consistent and accordingly, one must assume, deliberate.

Thank you Peter for humanizing and putting human faces to the potential victims of the funding cuts. If we acted with similar behaviors towards our neighbours, we would be accused of being discriminatory and abusive.

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