Students rally for ESL training at Vancouver Community College

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      An event organized to protest cuts to English language training drew hundreds of students and teachers to Vancouver Community College today (June 3).

      Karen Shortt, the president of the VCC Faculty Association, said the college is in a “crisis” due to a suspension of funding for English as a second language classes at the institution that will leave 3,000 students without training after December of this year.

      “That’s 3,000 students per term that we have been training here at this college for over 40 years,” Shortt said at the rally outside VCC on East Broadway.

      “We are the largest provider of English language training in this province, and we have been cut to zero starting in January.”

      The cuts stem from the federal government's decision to end the Canada-B.C. Immigration Agreement, which funded ESL education. Transitional funding from the B.C. government for ESL programs is set to run out at the end of this year.

      Saeideh Ghaffarifar, a trained medical doctor from Iran and spokesperson for the ESL Matters campaign, told the crowd of students and teachers carrying placards that the news of the program suspension is “devastating”.

      “Over 60 percent of the students at VCC have a degree, diploma or certificate from another country, and just require some English training to find work,” she said.

      “VCC is filled with students like me, who are ready to work or take a typical program to upgrade their skills.”

      Marcos Moscoso, an ESL student at VCC, worked as a literature professor at a university in Lima, Peru before moving to Canada. For the last year and a half, the permanent Canadian resident has been living in Vancouver and taking classes to improve his English.

      Moscoso, who said his job hunt so far has been unsuccessful, has been working as a Spanish tutor to make ends meet.

      “I would like to become here a librarian, but I need to improve my English,” he said.

      “The ESL program is the only chance I have to improve my English for a work setting, so that I can find employment.”

      Jenelle Davies, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia, noted that ESL programs are accessed by “some of the most marginalized individuals in our society”.

      “Without affordable public programming, these individuals will be forced to seek training through lower quality private institutions, or poorly resourced community agencies,” she stated.

      “Those coming from other countries without the necessary language skills to engage in the workplace in English are often unable to afford the cost recovery model so prevalent in ESL training.”

      Cindy Oliver, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC, vowed to work with students and other unions and organizations to restore ESL funding.

      “Together we are going to fight to make sure that ESL doesn’t just survive but that it thrives in this province,” she told the crowd.

      Earlier this year, the provincial government announced transitional funding to help post-secondary institutions affected by the federal government's decision to cancel the Canada-B.C. Immigration Agreement, including close to $8 million for VCC.

      "The B.C. government continues to work with public post-secondary institutions to develop a long-term strategy for the delivery of ESL and mitigate the impact on students," a March news release from the Ministry of Advanced Education stated.




      Jun 4, 2014 at 7:17am

      One of the requirements I had to pass to immigrate to Canada was to show proficiency in either English or French. How is it that these people protesting didn't have to pass that standard??? Besides, there are LOTS of places around Vancouver that teach ESL classes. This is something that could save money for VCC, and therefore help keep my taxes down. No problem with this.

      ESL Does Matter

      Jun 5, 2014 at 12:30pm

      Highly educated and skilled immigrants bring with them 18+ years of education. A year or two of ESL to get them into the workforce and socially integrated is an inexpensive way to get tax payers into the Canadian system. This is a good investment for Canada!

      ESL teacher

      Jun 5, 2014 at 6:20pm

      I'm fine with students having to pay their way but what the government is doing is ENDING public access to English lessons.
      We have public access to French lessons - probably the least-spoken language in BC - we have public access to basket-weaving and art history courses. You can get a degree in philosophy or go ice-skating or learn tai-chi or borrow a whole tv show of DVDs through public-funded venues. How can anyone say those things are more valuable to society than us being able to communicate with each other?

      Sure, make those pay who can, but ending publicly-funded ESL is akin to ending our ability to have public-access to being able to communicate with each other.


      Jun 6, 2014 at 8:14am

      I believe immigrants should learn English in their own country, before thinking of emigrating to an English speaking country. Tax payers should not be asked to pay for their educating. LET THEM PAY for their own tuition.

      ESL Matters!

      Jun 7, 2014 at 9:45am

      Immigrants who come here may have studied English in their home countries, but that does not mean that they have the skills and cultural knowledge to navigate the system here. What the government is doing is shutting classes that allow students to get into other programs and become productive members of society. This is a short sighted government plan.


      Aug 6, 2014 at 4:12pm

      Do they pay for their courses? or subsidized? Saw their parking lots and filled with BMS's, Benz's, Audi's, even a couple of Porsches'... If not or subsidized, why not have them pay in the first place?