Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BC's adult education program victim of "choice"

The BC government has announced that it will no longer fund many of the adult education courses that were previously available at no cost, unless they are taken online. Among those courses on the chopping block are Grade 12 courses in physics, calculus, financial accounting, law, social justice, comparative civilizations, marketing, tourism and geography. (See the Vancouver Sun article here:

Under the guise of "choice" and "flexibility", this government is in fact reducing choice for the purposes of cost cutting. They do not want to fund classrooms and teachers to provide adult education, but they are willing to pay the much smaller cost of an online course, despite the evidence that for many learners, this is not effective.

Adult education programs provide excellent opportunities for adult learners to complete or improve their secondary level coursework. Often this enables further post-secondary educational opportunities. It is one of the pathways to improved education, employment and a higher standard of living. Creating a cost for these programs creates a barrier for those needing the upgrade and will result in fewer adults making this decision. This decision is short sighted and irrational.

It is no surprise, however. And it is completely in line with what this government really means by "choice" and "flexibility". The choice for Boards of Education to eliminate programs. The choice to offer programs through an online format only. The flexibility to do it the cheap way, not the best way.

With the changes in Bills 22 and 36, expect more decisions like these. These two pieces of legislation enable the Ministry to change funding models and instruction time guarantees so that Boards can make more "choices" to deliver educational programs in the cheapest way possible.

As usual, choice and flexibility are all about money and never about the students.


  1. Hi Tara,

    A bigger issue for teachers, I would contend, is how the remaining courses are funded. By next year, as I understand it, all remaining (funded) adult courses will be supported through a "50/50" model. That means any school - online or face-to-face - will only get 50% up front, and will receive the remaining amount only after the adult student has completed the course.

    In my experience in distance/distributed learning (DL), this makes full-time DL teachers economically unsustainable. A DL school simply can't carry full-time teachers with the hope of getting half its funding upon completion. Given the historically (and naturally?) lower completion rates in DL, distance ed. schools that rely on adult learners may be forced to go back to the old ways of the correspondence school: piecemeal contract marking.

    In other words, the DL world is going to face even more pressure. DL teachers are already considered non-enrolling teachers (which is dangerous and absurd), and DL schools already receive substantially less per student FTE than brick-and-mortar schools.

    So don't blame DL. They may end up worse off than brick-and-mortar adult ed. programs.

    1. All true, and a much longer discussion about everything that is wrong about how DL was set up in BC to begin with based on a model where Districts compete with each other.

      DL is great for certain students and should be fully funded and properly supported. But it is often and increasingly being used as a replacement when it doesn't make sense. In the US, some states now mandate that every student take a DL course regardless of their situation, learning style, etcetera. It is being done simply as a cost savings measure and to line the pockets of companies like K12 Inc.

      I wouldn't be surprised if the next great terrible idea of this government is to similarly contract out DL services to a private company.