Phoenix’s Story: “I Died for a Few Minutes”

Transformative learning & the road to  adult literacy/adult basic education


French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, once wrote: “Reality is not an absolute. It differs with the group to which one belongs.”

These past three months have given us a glimpse into the lived-realities of three literacy/basic education students. Their stories have shown how a single “disorienting dilemma” or several disorienting events changed their lives. We have also seen how such transformative learning has led them to literacy and basic education.

This month’s story is perhaps the most powerful story so far. Our  student this month shares how, “I … found out that I had died for a few minutes, went blue, and stopped breathing.” She has chosen the fictitious name, “Phoenix.” It is an amazing story.

Reflecting for just a moment on the stories thus far, I think about the struggles and transformative learning that has lead these adults to literacy and basic education and can’t help but contrast their realities with those of so many of the grade 12 graduates who take a “career pathway” to post-secondary programs. And, I think about how vital it is to have empathetic tutors, counsellors and instructors—not to mention supportive programs and policies—that can recognize and accommodate such difference and diversity.  We will be seeing stories with this focus in the months ahead. So please stay tuned

Meanwhile, Phoenix, we thank you for sharing your remarkable story. Every success in your program and every success in the future.  

 Dr. Allan Quigley & the SARN Team.


All my life I swear it’s always been a constant struggle. There are very few times I remember when I was young that my mom, my little sister and I were completely content. No matter how hard we struggled, though, our mom always showed us and told us how much she loved us. We were rich on love.

As I grew older and older our mom kind of lost herself along the way. My sister and I would get sent to foster homes when she went off and did her own thing. We were used to it. To us it was normal. By the time you knew it, my sister and I were old enough to take care of ourselves. We knew what to say if social services came for us. We became good liars so they wouldn’t take us.

It is many years later and we each have kids of our own and we’re expected to raise these little people, to teach them how to grow, how to live. This is the part where our mom went wrong. It wasn’t her fault, though. It is a cycle. It needs to be broken.

I noticed myself starting to do the things she did when I was younger. I started drinking more and more. I experimented with all kinds of drugs. I started to neglect my children. I was hurting everyone, especially my very own babies. I knew I needed to change.

I usually overcame all my obstacles but the hardest one that I think is going to bother me forever is losing my mom. She passed on June 19, 2013. I fell into a depression and didn’t really care anymore. I knew she had a rough life and she was very tired. She is at peace and I know that now.

I slipped a few times, but the number one thing that made me want a better life was in the summer of 2014. It was July 16th, just before my two sons’ birthdays. My best friend was just getting back from Florida and I missed her so we hung out, took my kids to the beach and had a few drinks. It was a good day.

Day turned to night and I woke up the next morning in the hospital with a broken chest bone. I was so lost. I didn’t know it right away, but I later found out that I had died for a few minutes, went blue, and stopped breathing. I had overdosed on a mixture of drugs and hard liquor. I thank God my Bestie’s mom was there. CPR saved my life.

Just four days before my kids’ birthdays, they would have had to put me in the ground. I’ll never forgive myself for that, for hurting everyone, all my family, and all my friends. I am so sorry. It was this awful thing that changed me.

I want better for my kids. They deserve the best life. I know I need to give that to them. So now it is a little over a year later and I have a clearer outlook on life. I know what I want. I know what I have to do to get it. Not only being accepted into school but all the positive that came from such a negative experience made me think. I make better decisions. I am thankful that I was given a second chance. It was a wakeup call for sure.

I love my life. I’m grateful. I’m definitely blessed. I think about that day and I think to myself, “I bet my angel up above was watching over me and said, ‘She’s not done her job yet.’” This is why I’m alive today: to be the best mom for my kids. I’m giving it my all. It’s a promise I made to myself and my children.

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The Influence of Our Children: “Transformative Learning & How We Came To Basic Education” 

First, a correction. In our last posted story, I said Andrea Jonasson–the practitioner who encouraged Billy Castel to submit his story—was a counsellor. My mistake. Andrea is a basic education instructor. My apologies. However, let me again thanks Andrea and Billy for last month’s powerful story.

You may remember in the first installment of this series, Dr. Patricia Cranton explained that transformative learning may occur as a result of a single event—a so called, “disorienting dilemma”—or, it may be the result of a series of “disorienting dilemma” events. Either way, such “deep learning” means a person comes to “see the world in a different way, or perhaps [will] see himself or herself in a different way.”

Last month we saw how Billy’s relationship with a new, caring, partner lead to a radical change in Billys’ ways of seeing. His  “habits of mind” were changed irrevocably. As Billy concluded: “If I was given a second chance to change the time I spent with her, I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Turning to this month’s installment, we have two stories from two BE learners who asked to remain anonymous. Like Billy, each describes how they came out of extremely difficult backgrounds. They each go on to explain how the world seen through the eyes of their own small children brought about a transformation in how they saw the world and themselves. Just like Billy, they effectively came to basic education as changed people.

Our sincere thanks goes out to these two remarkable students for sharing with us and to the BE practitioner who encouraged them to submit the two stories…that follow.

Do you or your learners have a story of transformative learning? Contact me at [] or Jacqueline Bruce at ‎[]‎ for details and story guidelines.

All the best in 2016.

Allan Quigley and the SARN Team


 “I Don’t Want To Be A Hypocrite:” The Influence Of Our Children:

I grew up in an unstable home. My grandparents were alcoholics and barely home. I went to school every day but as a teenager I got into my rebellious stage. I started cutting class, hung out with wrong crowd and everyone just gave up on me. I met and had kids with my first love. We lived with his mom and two siblings which one of them had a baby also.

We lived in a 3 bedroom house on his reserve. After a while stuff happened and we separated. I moved back with my family and that wasn’t the best decision. I struggled to get on welfare and find a place. The only way I was going to get help from welfare was to do job searches and find a job. They would supplement the rest if I didn’t make enough. I can’t recall how many times I applied and got accepted into school and dropped out. My family filled my head with negative thoughts and at this point I didn’t have the drive, the motivation or the confidence.

I can proudly look back now and say to myself, “What was I thinking?” In Basic Education today, I am almost done, 2 credits to be exact. Coming back to school wasn’t the easiest task I had to face. Especially having kids at a young age, no family support and not having a positive role model. I don’t want to be a hypocrite telling my kids to finish school and I didn’t. I want to be their positive role model. I want to be able to support them without the struggle. I don’t want to be at a dead end job for the rest of my life. I want a career that I love.

Coming to ABE has helped with my confidence and I am looking forward to getting into post-secondary. Before this, this would have been something that I could never imagine. With the help and support of my ABE instructors I have the confidence to be proud of myself. Like what I always say now, “It’s better late than never!”


“A Better Future For My Family:” The Influence Of Our Children

When I was 16, I became a young mother and dropped out of school to care for my baby. I had no family support or encouragement to go back to school. As the years went on, I and my boyfriend had more kids and our family became bigger.

I did a lot of thinking and wanted to come back to school but it was a struggle having children to care for at the same time. Living on welfare was not doing any good for me and my kids. I really needed to get back to school so I can have a better future for myself and my family.

I made the decision that it was time for me to go back to get my education. Coming back to school has given me great opportunities and has opened a lot of doors for me and my future. The instructors and staff in the program I am in are great. They have given me a lot of support and are helping me to succeed in getting my education.

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Billy’s Story: Transformative Learning and ”How I Came To Basic Education”

HI and welcome to the first in a new series of blog instalments. The theme for this year is Transformative Learning and its implications for literacy and adult basic education.

Check out our October instalment by Dr. Patricia Cranton to read more about this important new area of research and how we are inviting practitioners and learners to share their stories. As Patricia explains, a transformational experience may occur as a result of a single event (a ”disorienting dilemma”) or as a result of a series of events. Either way, a person will typically “see the world in a different way, or perhaps [will] see himself or herself in a different way.” As Patricia notes–and as most practitioners know–this life-changing phenomenon happens often in literacy and basic education,  not only with learners but with practitioners as well.

Andrea Jonasson, an instructor at the Prince Albert Polytech campus, worked with Billy Castel for the story that follows. Thank you Andrea!

Billy shares how and why he came to basic education, and how a single person made a transformative difference to his life. As he says: ” It takes only one person to change who you are.”

Thanks for sharing this, Billy. Every success in your program.

What is your story? For details and a story template to help write your story, please contact Allan at or Jacqueline at


Billy’s Story: Transformative Learning and ”How I Came To Basic Education” 

 By Billy Castel, Basic Education student, Saskatchewan Polytechnic Prince Albert Campus.

There have been many life changing events in my life, from conversations to events. When I was fifteen I lost two brothers and a cousin in a house fire. I’ve always been easily distracted, in school at home or outdoors with my friends.

After the fire, I started drinking and fighting a lot. I lived in Pukatawagan, Manitoba most of my life. In 2005 I moved to The Pas, Manitoba, for a year. This was the year my brother Troy was born. I moved back to Puk later on in the year. This kind of put me back a bit in school. Later on after the house fire I moved to Lynn Lake for about a year. This really slowed me down in school. I was actually out for a year. I attended the school there for a few months but didn’t get the credits.

I was angry and sad about the loss of my family members and I did have abandonment issues. I grew up with my grandparents. My dad was a gangster, and my mother was too young to take care of me.  My grandparents took me in since birth. I am very grateful for that. Who knows? If I had gone with my dad I’d probably be dead.

I ended up going to jail the year I turned 18. In there I learned quite a bit about stuff on the other side of the law. I got out on bail twice. When I messed up the third time, I ended up getting bail again. When I got bail, I attended a treatment center in Nelson House, Manitoba. In there I learned a lot about myself with the problems I had in my head. It was there that I realized that I had abandonment issues. The counselor there helped me a lot. I strongly believe if I did not attend that treatment center I’d still be sitting in jail.

Before I went to jail I got an inbox on Facebook from a girl I met early on in the year before I got charged for fighting. She inboxed me, telling me that I was going to have a child. She wanted me to sign some papers when the time was right. I did sign the papers, not really knowing what I was doing. I was young and didn’t know much about things. I wasn’t sure about signing the papers, because I wasn’t sure if it was my kid.

Before that I was really unstable, I almost shot myself the weekend my son was conceived. After my son was born, I did kind of slow down on acting out on the world. I still drank, I still fought, and I was still feeling lost in the world not knowing what to do with my life.

In 2013 I moved to Steinbach, Man, for about a year. Later on in the year I moved to Winnipeg, Man. There I was really doing bad, hanging out with the wrong crowd. It was actually the same crowd my dad hung with. I was sitting around with gangsters and users, selling drugs and watching people use hard drugs. I’ve watched people smoke meth and crack, and I was snorting pills and coke. It wasn’t untill I got asked if I wanted to patch into a gang, that I realized that this wasn’t the life I wanted. I thought about my son, and how my dad’s choices affected me.

I went back to Puk after that. I was still drinking when I got there, and messing around with different women. It wasn’t till New Year day when I settled down, but I was still drinking a bit. I got into a relationship with this girl who change my whole thoughts on life.

I didn’t believe in love. I saw my grandparents, and thought that love belonged to the generations before mine. We were only messing around for the first few months. I was always out doing nothing, until I started spending time with her more often. We kept telling each other that we were only cuddling, so I just kept on fooling around with other women. I ended up messing with one of my exes and she found out. This was the first time I actually felt the pain of heartbreak, I felt more lost than when I was sitting with the people who were doing meth. I was a boy before I met this girl. She changed me so much. If I hadn’t of spent the time I’ve spent with her, I believe I’d be in a cell or a box.

She noticed something I didn’t notice in myself. Look at me now in school, working on success. If I didn’t spend the time I did with her my life would be cold and grey. I’d be looking to get high or laid, getting paid for sitting on my ass, waiting for a welfare check every month.

It takes only one person to change who you are, or to at least notice that there is more to life. Usually it should be you.

The time I spent with this girl was mostly at night, spending all hours of it just talking watching movies, and laughing. The stuff we talked about was what we thought we wanted to do in life. I don’t think I ever answered that question, because I didn’t know the answer. I’m pretty sure I was always the one asking the questions, because I was just interested in her, and everything she did. She wasn’t like the other women I spoke to, or spent time with.

If I was given a second chance to change the time I spent with her, I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

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In Search Of Stories: SARN Explores Transformative Learning

Hi. Welcome to another exciting year with the Saskatchewan Action Research Network. We have a new theme for this year’s blog series—a topic suggested by a reader (hey, if you are reading this, thank you for your idea).

This year, SARN is exploring transformative learning in adult literacy and basic education. We need your help! We are looking for stories from students, instructors, counselors, administrators—any participant who has changed as a result of involvement in literacy/basic education programming. We are especially interested in stories that include how and when literacy/basic changed the way a participant “sees the world in a different way, or perhaps sees himself or herself in a different way” (see Patricia Cranton’s article below).

Perhaps you can help a student write their story and get them published? Let’s involve our learners more this year.

If you would like more information or want a template form that should help you tell your story, please send a note to either Jacqueline Bruce ( or me ( Stories should be no longer than 1500 words and Jacqueline and I will help with any editing that may be needed..

Please pass along this invitation together with Patricia’s blog installment. We are really forward to this exciting series and really looking forward to those stories… Again, contact Jacqueline or me for more information.

Allan Quigley


Dr. Patricia Cranton.

Dr. Patricia Cranton. Professor of Adult Education, University of New Brunswick

Transformative Learning in Adult Literacy and Basic Education
 by Dr. Patricia Cranton

There are times in the practice of adult education when a student or instructor undergoes a meaningful shift in the way he or she sees the world in a different way, or perhaps sees himself or herself in a different way.  These are usually moments of joy and appreciation.

Transformative learning theory describes this process.

Dr. Patricia Cranton is a Professor of Adult Education at the University of New Brunswick


Dr. Jack Mezirow

Dr. Jack Mezirow, Professor of Adult Education

What Is Transformative Learning?

Transformative learning theory originated with Dr. Jack Mezirow when he witnessed the experience of his wife Edee who returned to college after many years.  He later  conducted a study of women’s re-entry into college in 1975 to 1978.  He proposed that a perspective transformation included the following phases:

A disorienting dilemma, self-examination, assessment of assumptions and a sense of alienation, relating to others, exploring options, building competence and self-confidence, planning a course of action, acquiring the skills for the course of action, trying out new roles, and reintegrating the social context.Transformative learning theory originated with Dr. Jack Mezirow when he witnessed the experience of his wife Edee who returned to college after many years.  He later  conducted a study of women’s re-entry into college in 1975 to 1978.  He proposed that a perspective transformation included the following phases:

 “Am I Alone In This?” An Example

To take just one example, a person has an experience that challenges her beliefs about herself.  This leads her to question herself and think about the assumptions she might be making about the role of women.  There can be a sense of isolation or alienation (asking, “Am I alone in this thinking?”) followed by relating to others who have the same experience.  Through conversations with others, she can explore options that lead to feeling more competent and confident.  The transformative learning process is complete when the person finds a way to act on her revised perspectives and reintegrates into the social context.

“Habits of Mind” & A Definition

Mezirow periodically adjusted his definition of transformative learning over the years, but essentially it remained the same.  In 2003, he wrote: “Transformative learning is learning that transforms problematic frames of reference—sets of fixed assumptions and expectations (habits of mind, meaning perspectives, mindsets)—to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to change.  Such frames of reference are better than others because they are more likely to generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action” (pp. 58-59).  That is, when people encounter an experience or perspective that is in conflict with their beliefs and values, that encounter has the potential to call those beliefs and values into question and to lead to a deep shift in the way people see themselves and/or the world.

There are, says Mezirow, “habits of mind—the groove in which our mind runs. Habits of mind are a product of past experiences, knowledge of the world, cultural background and psychological inclinations.  People develop habitual expectations—what happens before is likely to happen again.  Mezirow identified six types of habits of mind:

  • Epistemic habits of mind are those related to knowledge and how we acquire knowledge.
  • Sociolinguistic habits of mind are related to social norms, cultural expectations, and the way language reflects those norms and expectations.
  • Psychological habits of mind have to do with people’s self-concept, inhibitions, anxieties, and fears.
  • Moral-ethical habits of mind define good and evil, morality, and the extent to which people see themselves as responsible for advocating for justice in the world.
  • Philosophical habits of mind are based on worldview, political views, and religious doctrine.
  • Aesthetic habits of mind include values, tastes, judgments, and standard about beauty.

Habits of mind are not easily accessible: they tend to be deeply embedded and unexamined.  As such, they can create constraints that prevent people from learning or critically questioning their perspectives.

Since Mezirow’s original research, many other scholars have come forth with alternative ways of understanding transformative learning.  Transformation may not be the cognitive and rationale process that Mezirow describes; it might be intuitive, spiritual, or relational and collaborative. Transformative learning has also been related to social change, social justice, and ideology critique.

“Learning Companions” Rather Than Instructors

The practice of literacy educators and basic education educators is often neglected in the transformative learning literature. Some argue that a certain level of cognitive development and, hence, formal education is a prerequisite for transformative learning. This assumption may serve to discourage researchers from examining the experiences of literacy learners. Yet, in the field of adult literacy education, anecdotes and stories abound that can only be interpreted as transformative learning.

In a paper presented with two colleagues, Brenda Wright and Allan Quigley, we examined the experiences of eight adult literacy educators in terms of how they fostered transformative learning.  Every interview and narrative revealed a strong current of the educators’ deep caring for their learners and an explicit passion for their work as well as a belief in the learners’ abilities. It was the nature of the relationships among educators and learners that led us to the term learning companion as a descriptor of how literacy educators see their role in fostering transformative learning.

“Scared Stiff” & a Closing Note

I have not worked as a literacy educator nor as a basic education teacher, so my comments must be limited.  I have, however, worked with educators who are literacy and basic education teachers and have learned a great deal from them. I also think that my work with tradespeople making the transition into teaching their trades is relevant here.

For many years, I worked in a program at the University of New Brunswick for tradespeople who wanted to become teachers of their trades.  They were carpenters, auto mechanics, marine mechanics, refrigeration experts, and the like.  Almost all of these people had never been a student at a university, but it was on a university campus where this mandatory program was held. The program they need to complete as a prerequisite for their being hired at the New Brunswick Community College was conducted at UNB.  These good folks were scared stiff.  They did not know what to expect. They were afraid that they would have to write “academic” papers, and they had no idea how to do this.

In this program, we focused on what people needed and wanted to learn.  I used a participatory planning strategy in which the course was developed with and by the participants.  When the students realized that they had a say in what was going to happen, they began to be involved in a more meaningful way, trusting that someone was going to listen to what was important to them.  And this, quite often, became a transformative learning experience for them. From “scared stiff” to adults confident in their own voice and abilities.

I hope that my comments encourage others to foster transformative learning in their practice in both literacy education and basic adult education. .

Some Suggested Additional Readings

Cranton, P. & Wright, B. (2008).  The transformative educator as learning companion.  Journal of Transformative Education, 6, 33-47.

Cranton, P. (2013). Transformative learning.  In P. Mayo (Ed.) Adult learning: A reader (pp. 267-275). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Cranton, P., & Wright, B. (2007). The transformative educator as learning companion. In P. Cranton & E. Taylor (eds.), Proceedings of the 7th international transformative learning conference.

Kroth, M., & Cranton, P. (2014). Stories of transformative learning. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Wright, B., Cranton, P., & Quigley, A. (2007). Literacy educators’ perspectives of transformation and authenticity. Paper presented at the 48th Annual Adult Education Research Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia.



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“Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.”   — Kurt Lewin (1946)                                              


June is year-end for our SARN project and, looking back, this was easily our busiest year ever–the busiest since 2003 when SARN began. We typically conduct two invited workshops per year at postsecondary institutions but this year we not only conducted our two workshops but added a webinar (our first ever).  Another major change, the selected theme this year was a focus on “transitioning adult basic education students into the workforce.” The webinar focused on this topic, as did the follow-up workshop two weeks later. This topic was included along with learner retention in the workshop we conducted later for North West College in North Battleford.  In addition to presentations at both the SABEA conference and the TEAL SK conference, we made strides in building our Face Book and Twitter communities.

But perhaps you read a few of our monthly blog installments that concentrated on how other provinces delivery literacy and basic education this academic year.  We asked, “How does BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario deliver adult literacy and basic education programs?”  And, “What is the potential of distance education here in Saskatchewan to help meet the adult literacy and basic education need here?”

So, with that quick overview, here’s a closer look at what SARN did last year.  But, before I move on dear readers, thank you for your involvement and support this past year. Our 2014-2015 website statistics show that we had our highest readership ever. Again, thank you.



  • Webinar: In 2014-2015, our Saskatchewan Action Research Network conducted its first ever province-wide Webinar. It was conducted with an expert on this topic  speaking from Ottawa and was held over a noon-hour on February 25. As mentioned, the topic selected by our Advisory Board was: “Transitioning Basic Education Students into the Workplace.” We had 51 registered (our largest group ever) and we had extremely positive feedback. The plan now is to build on this success next year with a “Part Two” Webinar on this same important topic, hopefully with the same presenter (stay tuned).
  • Follow-Up Transition Workshop: Two weeks after the webinar, we conducted a follow-up workshop with an action research “hands-on” training workshop. Held in Saskatoon, we had 31 registered from across the province.  Interestingly, we had a large number of counselors and workplace coordinators in attendance. They came from colleges, Dumont Technical Institute, the Sask. Polytechnic and other allied providers. This training workshop began with an overview of SARN, moved to a review of what we heard and saw in the webinar presentation, then we switched to small groups after learning how to use and apply action research. Participants left with exciting, practical plans on how to help their students transition from classrooms to employment—or to employment following further education. Each plan was developed to meet the unique needs of each discussion groups’ own work settings.
  • North West College: We also conducted an invited workshop in North Battleford for the BE staff of North West College. Again, it began with an overview of SARN, moved to a review of SARN research posted on our  website (SARN.CA) about proven ways to reduce learner dropout and improve student attendance. And, since the college had requested a review of what was presented in the webinar, we covered that as well. So, at the end of that productive day, 21 participants left with  step-by-step research plans to implement back at their worksites. AND, you can see a very promising project already posted on our  website (WWW.SARN.,CA) resulting from this workshop.  This group explored the intervention strategy of introducing healthy food and exercise into the classroom schedule to see if that would increase learning performance, make the curriculum more relevant with these activites and see if this strategy had the potential to improve student attendance and retention. Check out that latest report on the SARN website.

SARN team members also presented at the annual SABEA conference and organized and sponsored the SABEA reception. Team members also presented at the annual TEAL SK conference to introduce SARN to more ESL/EAL practitioners, and we hosted two Advisory Board meetings. Whew!

But perhaps our widest reach came with our monthly blog series… The statistics show we had readers from across Saskatchewan, New York, San Francisco, Europe, and even Buenos Aires, South America. So let’s take a look at some of the things we learned in our blog series….



From January through May, I posted monthly blogs on each of: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario’s BE delivery systems. We also had a look at distance education developments in our own province. I gave some observations on the practices and policies that might benefit our own province along the way in hopes this might engender some discussion as we move forward with adult education into 2015-2016.

A thumbnail sketch of our west-to-east journey:

I.  For over 20 years the B.C. government has supported a providers’ lead project to create and maintain: Adult Basic Education: A Guide to Upgrading in British Columbia’s Public Post-Secondary Institutions. This guide is continually updated to try to keep the k-12 and post-secondary systems informed.  It also helps inform multiple providers, referring agencies and employers by updating them on what, where, and how literacy and basic education programs are made available in the province.  A side benefit, by maintaining this guide through regular meetings and internet discussions, contributing practitioners have the opportunity to discuss specific new materials and best practices in each others’ teaching areas and subject disciplines.  Couldn’t we use something like this in Saskatchewan?

Some further snapshots of B.C.’s system:

British Columbia’s “Highly Comprehensive System.

  • The “Dogwood Diploma” Alternative:  As will also be seen in Manitoba and Ontario, B.C.’s adult learners have a choice of graduating with either a grade 12 High School Diploma or an Adult Graduate Diploma (AGD)—also know as the “Dogwood Diploma.” Both diplomas are offered by most postsecondary institutions. More information is available at the website of the B.C Ministry of Advanced Education.
  • School Boards & Embedded Courses: Both B.C. and Ontario have long histories of school boards offering ABE. This route to high school completion is free for full-time adult learners over 18 in B.C. And, in many institutions, such as the Vancouver Community College, younger adult learners and more mature adult learners are often “streamed” to different classrooms routes for pedagogical reasons. This is further discussed in that individual B.C. blog article and in more depth in the Ontario blog article, but, both provinces’ school boards enroll at least as many adults learners as their provinces’ post-secondary systems.  The school board’s BE courses for adults are typically offered in facilities such as adult campuses.

Here in Sask., to the best of my knowledge, only the Saskatoon School Board has adult campuses. One is at Saskatoon’s Royal West campus and the other is located at Nutana Collegiate. The Regina School Board also has an Adult Campus in downtown Regina. Perhaps the wider need could be better addressed with more Ministry of Education adult programs? Since the school boards’ BE courses are free for full-time adult students up to age 21 here in Sask, this existing structure would permit good pedagogical “streaming” into appropriate cohorts for younger adult learners, leaving more of the more mature learners in our postsecondary programs and overall helping take some of the backlog pressure off those BE programs with waiting lists.

Embedded BE Courses: Some B.C. colleges and post-secondary institutes are teaching basic education courses simultaneously with trades courses. This means basic ed’ courses are effectively embedded in the trade classes’ schedule so adult basic students may, for instance, have their BE courses in the morning and their trades classes in the afternoon. Both may well be in the same room or shop space but with different instructors.  The objective is to make BE streamlined to meet the prerequisite needs of trades courses.

II.  Alberta’s “Entrepreneurial System”

  • Alberta raises a question:  “What is the Purpose of Adult Basic Education anyway?” Looking at Alberta, one has to ask about the purpose of a province’s basic education delivery system.

In Saskatchewan, graduates must complete the public school’s grade 12 curricula to graduate. While this has obvious academic and future educational benefits, Alberta sees basic education very differently. As my Alberta interviewee said, basic education is meant to help adults “upgrade and meet pre-technical needs.”  In Alberta, each individual postsecondary institution has its own BE curriculum and each assumes it will prepare learners to enter their, or another’s, trades programs. The concept is not so different from the way many universities today have their own preparatory courses at the front end of their academic program.

Here is what NAIT’s Website states: “Students who complete the Academic Upgrading program do not receive a certificate or diploma, and do not receive course credits toward an Alberta Learning High School diploma. However, the courses are accepted as entrance requirements at NAIT and at all other Alberta post-secondary institutions (December 12).”

In Western and Central Canada, the continuum of high school completion diplomas seems to range from Saskatchewan’s mandatory grade 12 for BE completions, to Alberta’s requirement whereby each post-secondary institution has its own BE program. Between these two poles are B.C., Ontario and Manitoba which individually offer parallel or dual systems of high school grade 12 and Basic Education diplomas. Should the purpose and completion diploma discussion be re-visited in Saskatchewan?

The Role of Alberta’s Non-Profit and Community-Based BE Providers: Who should offer the lower levels of basic education? Alberta and Ontario both work especially hard at having non-profit and community-based providers deliver most of the lower levels of basic literacy—at least this seems to be the case in their larger cities.  The objective, according to my Alberta informant, is to have levels 1-4 located in community-based centres and locations where learners live and feel comfortable. Bow Valley College in Calgary, as I was told, works with libraries, Aboriginal centres, civic facilities, the United Way and any number of local organizations to have their basic literacy programs located in free or low-rent facilities where many learners live. As will be seen, the same is true in Manitoba and Ontario.

Should more of our province’s level 1-4 program be in the community based programs of the province?

IV.  Saskatchewan Distance Education

  • Distance Education: The Saskatchewan installment focused on what our province has been doing and learning about BE delivery with distance technologies. In my interview with Kami DePape at Parkland College—our province’s main distance provider for over 10 years—Kami explained:  “Currently, we offer 20 and 30-level asynchronous programming through our distance school, which was officially launched provincially in 2009. We also have grade 12 face-to-face staff teaching our campus-based levels 2, 3 and 4 Adult Basic Education programs. These are in addition to the 3 instructors in our distance program.”

According to Kami, “Parkland has had an average of 275 learners yearly since 2009 with many taking multiple 20 or 30-level subjects.”  As she told me: “We have served 1,379 learners over the past 5 years, all at level four, meaning 20 and 30-level courses leading to a high school diploma.”  And the numbers appear to be rising with learners registering from our province and others, including former Saskatchewanians now located in other provinces, Europe or the United States.

The Parkland experience for the past decade has been to serve adults who need some credits to finish high school. And, the retention rates are quite impressive. Kami reported: “Our retention rate over the past 5 years has been 83%.”

 Does this route hold promise for the 21st century for Saskatchewan?


  • But this is not the whole story.  Three of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic campuses offer the lower level 1-4 program to a limited number through an off-campus  Polytechnic contract with Arrowmight. Arrowmight delivers basic literacy education classes in other parts of Canada as well. And, as of January of this year, the (then) Dean of Basic Education told me this distance innovation was going very well using local tutors for support.

Saskatchewan has two things in great abundance—lots of distance and lots of adults who have not completed high school. Should our province build a larger off-campus outreach delivery system using distance technologies as we move into the 21st century?

IV.  Manitoba’s Integrated System

As I said in that blog article, Manitoba may have well have Canada’s best delivery system. It depends on one’s criteria for “best system” …. but consider the following:

  • One Ministerial Funding Branch: It is impressive to see how all funding for all levels and all types of adult literacy and basic education is funded and supported by a single branch out of one MB ministry—the Adult Learning and Literacy Branch of the Manitoba Ministry of  Multiculturalism and Literacy.  From the John Howard Society to colleges, that single branch administers a network of adult literacy programs at the non-credit upgrading level as well as  approved/registered adult learning centres (ALCs) that offer both the high school curricula the Manitoba adult BE alternative.
  • Legislation: This province is also impressive in that it has government legislation in the form of  The Adult Literacy Act and The Adult Learning Centres Act.  Under these two acts, adults have the option of attending tuition-free programming at Adult Learning Programs to upgrade their basic academic skills and/or attending tuition-free programming at Adult Learning Centres so they can obtain a high school or a mature high school diploma. Further, adult students can have their previous learning assessed and recognized for credit at Adult Learning Centres and can earn up to two high school credits for their prior learning at the basic literacy level.
  • Dual Credits: As in B.C. and Ontario, Manitoba’s adults have the opportunity to obtain dual credits at some ALC’s so their credits are then recognized by the schooling system and the post-secondary system. Here is a dual credit system not seen in most provinces. And, those who already hold a high school diploma may be eligible to enroll for four additional courses, tuition-free, to obtain the necessary pre-requisite credits for employment or further post secondary education.

Is this Canada’s “best” literacy and basic education system? Maybe. But however you see literacy/basic education purposes or optional delivery systems, I would like to suggest other provinces need to look at what they have developed in Manitoba.

V.  Ontario’s Massive, yet Forward Looking System

Imagine this, Ontario’s basic education system annually serves some 85,000 learners.

In this case, I interviewed an academic, a consultant and a senior official with the Adult Education Policy Branch in the Ontario Ministry of Education. Each has over 25 years of experience in practice, policy and/or research.  What I mainly learned was from the point of view of literacy/BE as offered by the Ministry of Education, not so much from the viewpoint of  “employment literacy” (as the senior official termed it). The employment literacy  side is the responsibility of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Here are someOntario innovations to consider:

  • Age Matters:  As explained by my academic interviewee, it is pedagogically important to stream younger apart from more mature adult learners. In Ontario, younger adults typically go into the youth-oriented ABE programs; likewise, older–the typically more mature adults with more life experience—often can perform better with their own age cohort.
  • Competing for Students?  Another important point, there is a concerted effort in Ontario to build a stronger collaborative approach to literacy/BE programming among colleges, school boards, CBO’s and other providers to reduce competition for adult students. Competition for students is perhaps the least discussed problem in our delivery systems. But, in Ontario, providers are being strongly encouraged to plan and work together.
  • Two Diplomas: As in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba, the lower levels of literacy are often offered by community based organizations. And, what we see in Ontario are CBOs developing more and more innovative pathways with “boutique programs” to meet the special needs of so many of their higher risk adult learners. Meanwhile, the higher 4-5 levels, as termed in Ontario, are offered by both school boards and colleges where adults can earn either a high school diploma or the widely recognized Adult Completion Certificate (ACE). This constitutes a “parallel” system of diplomas, not a dual credit system since the ACE certificate is not officially recognized by the Ministry of Education. Rather, the ACE certificate is a postsecondary certificate offered by and recognized by the postsecondary system.
  • One Course per Quarter: Increasingly, ON postsecondary institutions are adopting a “quadmester system” for BE; meaning 8-week terms whereby students normally take but one course. This concentrated approach, they have found, is proving to be very effective for the high level of “stop-out” among our adults who often have family and life challenges.
  • Learning/Training Pathways: The Ontario Ministry of Education is seeking better articulation across schools and colleges. The idea has been that students do not necessarily need to first finish their basic education diploma, then apply for trades training, then enter the workforce. It doesn’t have to be steps on a “ladder.” The ministry respondent I interviewed gave the recent example of 25 basic education students in a George Brown College Registered Practical Nursing Program—well known to have high academic standards—who received both high school and advanced standing in biology and mathematics in their nursing program simultaneously, and they all then moved into the Ontario health field via the college’s co-op placement program.
  • A New E-Learning Hybrid: The Ontario Ministry of Education is piloting a promising “hybrid E-Learning system” that involves both classroom teaching and distance delivery. This should better accommodate the schedules of adults who attend classes only when they are able. The hybrid approach will have built-in diagnostic placement tools so returning adults can re-assess where they should re-engage in programs of study and will have a required refresher component so re-engaging won’t be so difficult. As of spring, 2015, this new approach was being pilot tested by 15 boards with some 200 learners involved. And, they were showing an 80-100% completion rate.
  • “Learn & Earn:” Some Ontario school boards are experimenting with an approach where adults can gain credits while on the job. Programs and credits are being developed where literacy and basic education knowledge and skills can be acquired while doing specific tasks on the job—an “Earn and learn” approach.

So it is hard to say which province has the “best” system but Ontario is doing great innovative work…

In closing, there is a lot to be learned from our neighboursI hope you agree… Comments are always welcome…  But, once again, thank you for your support and engagement in this important movement. We are building practical knowldege… 

Hoping to “virtually see you” next year,



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#5. How is Adult Basic Education Delivered in Ontario?

 A Look at Ontario’s Massive, yet Forward-Looking System.


This has been an extremely interesting five-month journey with each installment archived through links on this “What Works?” blog:

  • in January we saw B.C.’s “comprehensive system” of adult literacy and basic education.
  • In February it was Alberta’s more “entrepreneurial system” of literacy/BE.
  • In March we had a look at our own promising distance education delivery  in Saskatchewan.  And,
  • we saw Manitoba’s extremely impressively “integrated system” in April.

This month we come to the last in this series with “A Look at Ontario’s Massive, yet Forward-Looking delivery system.”  Massive? Ontario has some 85,000 students involved.

This short installment will barely scratch the surface but there are some things we could learn from Ontario. I hope the following will spark some further ideas for discussion.


I first interviewed two long-time friends of mine, each with over 20 years of practice, academic research, policy-formation and consulting experience in Ontario’s literacy/basic education field. I then interviewed a senior official with the Adult Education Policy Branch in the Ontario Ministry of Education, also with over 25 years of experience in both practice and policy. Collectively, they gave a great overview of the Ontario delivery system—but what I learned did not really reflect “employment literacy” (as the senior official termed it) which is not with the Ministry of Education. This second area is the responsibility of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. That other “side” of Ontario adult basic education would make yet another interesting blog…but here are a few  observations I made.


  • Similar to B.C., Ontario school boards delivery the lion’s share of literacy and basic education.
  • Like Saskatchewan and B.C., full funding for program delivery is provided for those adults under 22 years of age.
  • None of the provinces I reported on have huge distance delivery systems, at least not within the mainstream institutions–meaning colleges and polytechnics.  Where distance delivery does exist, it is often made possible by a third agency.
  • And, like most of the Western provinces, there are the standard four levels of BE, as we’ll see in a moment.

But as I probed further, and since I was talk with an official at the centre of adult literacy policy, I had a chance to learn about some of the important policy trends emerging in Ontario. These were extremely interesting innovations.

I hope you agree…


First, imagine the challenges of attempting to reach 85,000 literacy and adult basic education students across the largest province in Canada.

How do you do it?

AGE MATTERS: Well, for starters, there are sub-populations involved. If we have seen anything in the past months, one size does not—cannot—fit all. As explained by the Ministry official, some 50% of the total population involved is between 18-24.  So, over 40,000 young adults are participating in literacy/BE programs in Ontario. And, as explained by all three respondents, there is a big difference between the funding that goes to full-time programs for the up to 22 year old students and that which goes to the older adult learners. Reportedly, the Ministry of Education provides approximately $11,000 for those 21 and younger and “less than $4,000” for each participant 22 and older. Those higher funding levels for the younger adults definitely tilts institutional program decisions towards that population. And, like everywhere else, funding helps shape delivery. But in this case, as pointed out by my academic friend, it is pedagogically important to stream younger adults seeking high school credits and grade 12 completion into high school ABE  programs. He argued younger adults perform best within their own age cohort. Likewise, older–often more mature–adults with more life experience will often perform better with their own age cohort. Older learners, he argued, are often looking beyond high school completion to further training and/or the area of employment they want to enter. So age matters.

Frankly, in a more perfect world (that actually responded to learner rather than administrative needs), we would see far more programming for adult learners with disabilities, at least some programs dedicated to female learners and, as seen in the U.S., more programs being offered to ethnic groups. In our province, we have Dumont Technical Institute and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies successfully working with Aboriginal adults so there is little doubt that cultural differences matter. Again, the “one-size” model is certainly not the most effective model.

A second important point made by the official was that the Ontario Ministry of Education has been working hard to address the overt competitiveness among literacy/BE delivery institutions. This is an old problem in our field. One that is rarely discussed. But there is a concerted effort in Ontario to build a stronger collaborative approach to literacy/BE programming among colleges, school boards, CBO’s and other providers. Providers are being strongly encouraged to both plan and work together. After all, we are talking about a very definable adult population with not only academic but largely consistent needs associated with socio-cultural issues arising from poverty and lower incomes. Institutional competitiveness only results in added barriers for learners and their families. So reducing competitiveness and overcoming barriers for our learner population is an important Ontario thrust. 

THE VALUE OF TWO DIPLOMAS: I asked how Ontario organizes ABE levels and was told the structure is essentially:

  • Level 1-2:  with community based organizations offering much of the programming at this level with CBO’s developing more and more independent pathways for adult learners (this point will be mentioned again later).
  • Level 3: Similar to our province, this is the level (or “phase” to use the Manitoba term) that school boards often offer in Ontario.
  • Levels 4-5: This level is offered by school boards and colleges but, unlike our province, adults can earn either a high school diploma or the widely recognized  Adult Completion Certificate (ACE).

Well, let me qualify this. The ACE certificate is “widely recognized” across the Ontario apprenticeship system, the post-secondary system and by many employers. But, the ACE certificate is not recognized by the Ministry of Education. The ACE certificate is a postsecondary certificate.

As in B.C. and MB, there is a high school diploma and an Adult Completion diploma  in Ontario.  While in-province recognition of two diplomas will differ with  provinces, the point is that learners have a choice and postsecondary institutions are afforded levels of curriculum flexiblity not often found in the delivery of high school curricula.


  • ONE COURSE PER QUARTER: I was told the Ontario Ministry was moving postsecondary institutions to adopt a “quadmester system” for BE. This means 8-week terms whereby students normally take but one course. The idea is to challenge the traditional model of students having to take several courses at once. This concentrated approach, they have found, is proving to be very effective for the “stop-out” adult population that often has very different life responsibilities and challenges than most mainstream postsecondary students.
  • E-LEARNING HYBRID DELIVERY: The Ministry of Education is piloting a promising “hybrid E-Learning system” that involves both classroom teaching and distance delivery. This is being tested using the Desire 2 Learn (”D2L”) technology platform and the Ministry expects it will better accommodate the schedules of our adults who attend classes only when they are able. To accommodate such adult learners, the hybrid approach will have built-in diagnostic placement tools so returning adults can re-assess where they should re-engage in the program of study and it will have a required refresher component so re-engaging won’t be so difficult. This new approach was being pilot tested by 15 boards at the time of the interview with some 200 learners involved. And, they were showing an 80-100% completion rate.
  • LEVEL 1-2 “BOUTIQUE” PROGRAMS: Levels 1-2 are often offered by community colleges and community based programs in Ontario and, very interesting, the CBO’s are developing more and more “boutique” pathways for these learners. This is an attempt to build “independent pathways” that skirt the standard benchmarks curricula. It is proving highly effective with, especially, at-risk adults.
  • LEARN AND EARN:” Some Ontario school boards are experimenting with a “Learn and Earn” approach where adults can gain credits while on the job. Unlike the classic “parking lot” model requiring students to engage in months and years of study apart from the job market, programs and credits are being developed where literacy and basic education knowledge and skills can be acquired while doing specific tasks on the job—“Earn and learn.”
  • LEARNING/TRAINING PATHWAYS: Finally, the Ministry respondent told me how her Branch was seeking to create far more articulation across schools and colleges. She gave the recent example where 25 basic education students in a George Brown College Registered Practical Nursing Program—well known to have high academic standards—received both high school and advanced standing in biology and mathematics. Not one leading to the other… They were then moved to the Ontario health field through the college’s co-op placement program. The idea is that students do not necessarily need to finish their basic education diploma first; then apply for and take trades training. Subsequently, BE students do not necessarily need to first graduate from a trades program and then seek employment (in this terribly tight job market). Universities and colleges have had co-op placement programs for decades. Why can’t we see more co-op placement programs in adult basic education with more program articulation?

Much food for thought…

Since we are at the end of the academic year, the wind up blog in June will focus on “Lessons Learned” in SARN this past year and will give a snapshot of the exciting year ahead for the Saskatchewan Action Research Network … and for our field.

Until next month,

Make a difference…


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#4. Manitoba’s Adult Literacy and Basic Education System


We have been looking at how other provinces delivery adult literacy and basic education in Western Canada.

  • In January we learned about B.C.’s impressively comprehensive system.
  • In February it was Alberta’s more entrepreneurial system.
  • Last month we learned more about our own province’s (little-known) distance delivery system and the work Parkland College is doing.
Dr. Lynette Plett
Dr. Lynette Plett, Executive Director/Registrar, Adult Learning and Literacy, Manitoba Multiculturalism and Literacy

Moving on, this month’s instalment is an interview with Dr. Lynette Plett, Executive Director/Registrar, Adult Learning and Literacy, Manitoba Multiculturalism and Literacy. Lynette tells us about the Manitoba delivery system. In my opinion, Manitoba has the most integrated delivery system in Western Canada. Very impressive! Check out how literacy and basic education programs are available from community agencies such as the John Howard Society and local libraries and how adults can attend programs at Adult Learning Programs and Adult Learning Centres across the province. AND, check out how adults can get take ABE credits in high schools or earn credit for trades courses and basic education simultaneously.  And, all funding is managed through Lynette’s office.  One Branch in one ministry with one highly integrated system serves some 10,000 adult learners annually.

Lynette ends the interview providing her e-mail and Website addresses if you would like to follow-up on Manitoba’s impressive delivery system.


Comments always welcome



AQ: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this, Lynette. I wonder if you can begin by giving us a quick overview of Manitoba’s adult literacy and basic education system?

LP: Thanks, Allan. I think the educational options and opportunities available to adults in Manitoba are impressive.

  • We have a network of adult literacy programs (ALPs) for non-credit upgrading and we also have registered adult learning centres (ALCs) for high school credit programming. Therefore, in our province, ALPs offer non-credit and the ALCs offer credit high school credit courses.
  • These two sets of programs may be offered in separate locations but they are sometimes in the same building. We refer to them all as Certified Adult Learning and Literacy Centres (CLLCs), but they are two distinct program areas offered through our ALPs and ALCs.
  • It is important to note that Manitoba has government legislation that supports both ALPs and ALCs: The Adult Literacy Act and The Adult Learning Centres Act. Under these acts, adults have the option of attending tuition-free programming at ALPs to upgrade their academic skills and/or attending tuition-free programming at ALCs to obtain credits and high school diplomas—including the option of completing an 8 credit mature high school diploma.
  • Adult students can also have their previous learning assessed and recognized for credit at ALCs, including up to two high school credits for their prior learning at the literacy level.
  • Also, adults have the opportunity to obtain dual credits at some ALCs and get a head start into their post-secondary studies; meaning, they can receive course credit at a post-secondary level and high school level simultaneously.
  • Those who already hold a high school diploma are eligible to enrol at an ALC for four additional courses, tuition-free, to obtain pre-requisite credits for employment or post secondary education.

The strength of Manitoba’s adult education delivery model is the potential for laddering from non-credit literacy programming, to high school credit programming, to post-secondary programming—tuition free at our network of Certified Adult Learning and Literacy Centres throughout the province.

AQ: Sounds very comprehensive. Here in Saskatchewan we have the Ministries of Advanced Education and the Ministry of the Economy involved with ABE delivery as well as the Ministry of Education which offers some ABE for adults under 22 through a few adult school board campuses. But I understand all literacy and ABE for all adult ages in Manitoba is managed and funded through a single ministry–all integrated through your office?

LP: Yes, in Manitoba, funding and registration for adult education is delivered through one Ministry—the Adult Learning and Literacy branch of Manitoba Multiculturalism and Literacy. Funding for and delivery of Essential Skills programming is provided through the Ministry of Jobs and the Economy.

Programming at both ALPs and ALCs is intended for adults of all ages. For example, our policy on under-age learners states: “The learner must display sufficient maturity to be able to function appropriately in an adult-focused learning environment.” The majority of the high school diplomas issued at ALCs are the Manitoba Mature Student High School Diploma (MMSHSD). To be eligible to obtain a MMSHSD, an adult must be 19 years of age or older.

Our policy is to cap under-aged learners at 10% to ensure an age-balanced adult environment in classrooms.

Learners at both ALPs and ALCs typically range in age from 19 to over 54 years of age. In 2012-13, only 2% of learners at ALPs were under 19 and, at ALCs, it was 4%. At ALPs with the senior level program, 17% of learners were aged 19-24 and at ALCs it was 47%. So, we certainly have a young learner demographic attending our programming. By the way, younger learners may be enrolled at ALCs, but they have to work towards a full 30 credit Manitoba High School Diploma.

The MMSHSD consists of 8 high school credits: 4 credits at the Grade 12 level (1 in English Language Arts and 1 in Mathematics). The other four credits may be obtained at the Grades 9 to 12 levels.

Adults up to the age of 22 may also enroll for high school credit courses in Manitoba’s school system. At these high schools, they could be working towards their MMSHSD, but alongside 16, 17, and 18 year-old classmates. However, if a program in a high school is geared to and grouped specifically for adults, it is supposed to be registered as an adult learning centre through our Branch.

AQ: So, it sounds like literacy/basic education programs are offered by a wide range of agencies, from community based organizations like the John Howard Society, to  colleges and universities, to band councils—even in Manitoba high schools?

LP: Yes. To be eligible for provincial funding for adult literacy programming (ALP), an agency has to be a not-for-profit organization, a registered adult learning centre (ALC), or a library. Currently, we provide funding for 33 such agencies for basic upgrading throughout the province.

Examples of not-for-profit organizations that are funded to provide adult literacy programming include Friendship Centres and the John Howard Society. Most not-for-profit organizations are small community-based organizations that were incorporated for the purpose of delivering adult literacy programming.

On the other hand, Adult Learning Centres (ALCs) are administered directly by a school division or a university/college. They can also be administered through not-for-profit organizations, First Nation band councils, or union training centres. However, to do so, such organizations must enter into a partnership with a school division or a university/college.  In this way, each of the partners is equally responsible for providing the educational program. These partnerships ensure oversight for quality delivery of the educational program and financial accountability.

In total, we register 42 adult learning centres throughout the province. Of these organizations, 12 also receive provincial funding to deliver adult literacy programming.

AQ: I also understand you don’t use the term ABE ‘levels’ for a reason… We in Sask. say ‘Level 1-2/level 3/ level 4’; but, in Manitoba, the term used across the system is ‘stages’? Could you describe the stages in Manitoba and why you say “stages” rather than levels?

LP: Right. We refer to the non-credit adult literacy levels as “Stages” not “levels.”

Stages  is a Framework and not a prescribed curriculum. The Manitoba Stages Framework  forms the basis for adult literacy instruction and assessment in the province.  The Framework describes principals or attributes expected in adult literacy programming as well as the stage level skills for reading, document use, writing, and oral communication. While learning outcomes are clearly identified for each Stage, the topics and resource materials are left open for the learner and the instructor to develop. The Manitoba Stages Framework allows for instruction to be customized to the goals of the adult literacy learner.

We have three Stages levels. The outcomes of these levels have been correlated with the provincial English Language Arts (EAL) curricular outcomes as appropriate for adult learners:

  • Stage 1 is approximately aligned with the English Language Arts (ELA) outcomes for Grades 1 to 4;
  • Stage 2 is approximately aligned with the ELA outcomes for Grades 5 to 7;
  • Stage 3 is approximately aligned with the ELA outcomes for Grades 8 & 9.

The three Stage levels were initially developed to align with the literacy & numeracy proficiency levels as defined by the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS). The development of Stages also took into consideration the levels of the Essential Skills and the Canadian Language Benchmarks.

A literacy level learner who has completed all the outcomes of Stage 3, may have his or her portfolio assessed at an ALC for up to two Grade 9 level high school credits.

AQ: Can ABE learners take the more senior level high school curricula at some level(s) as well as have the option of an ABE senior level curricula through the Manitoba adult delivery system? Two options? How is that choice made locally for adult learners?

LP: Through the intake and assessment process at either an ALP or an ALC, and based on learners’ stated learning goals, an adult would be advised about their educational options and then be enrolled or referred to appropriate programming.

A learner might well be enrolled in a Grade 10 Mathematics course at an ALC and simultaneously enrolled at an ALP to work on upgrading his or her reading or writing skills. At organizations which offer both types of programming, learners can more seamlessly engage in learning at different programming levels.  We encourage all ALPs and ALCs to have strong working and referral relationships with the other level of programming.

AQ: Taking this point further, I understand Manitoba has a ‘dual credit system?’ Can you describe that? Are dual credits accepted both by employers and further education institutions, such as universities?

LP: There are a number of definitions and practices for “dual credit systems,” but the current practice at Manitoba’s ALCs involves a partnership between an ALC and a post secondary institution where a college, for example, delivers a course that provides the adult learner with both a high school credit as well as a college credit for the course. These dual credit courses are registered at the Ministry’s Adult Learning and Literacy branch.

Examples of dual credit courses that have been delivered at ALCs include: Construction Trade Technology, Educational Assistant Skills, and Urban and Inner City Studies. As a result, when an adult learner enrols at a post-secondary institution, he or she has already earned some of the trades as well as academic credits towards a program of study.

AQ: Is the GED offered in your province?

LP: GED Testing is administered in Manitoba. Preparation for GED Testing is offered on a cost recovery basis at various organizations or at ALPs if the level of preparation fits within the context of the Manitoba Stages Framework. GED is accepted as an academic credential by some employers and post secondary institutions and, for some adults, this is a faster way of achieving their employment goal or pre-requisites for PSE than obtaining a Manitoba high school diploma.

AQ: How many students do you typically have in basic education each year? And what is the annual retention rate for the province?

LP: There are just over 10,000 learners enrolled across our Certified Adult Learning and Literacy Centres annually. Although this fluctuates from year to year, in 2012/13, there were 2,254 learners enrolled at ALPs and 8,409 at ALCs, meaning more adult learners at the for-credit, high school levels.

For ALCs, we know that in 2012/13, a total of 11,752 courses were completed for credit. There were 1,329 learners who obtained a Manitoba high school diploma.

We have just implemented new processes for assessing learner progress at ALPs in 2014/15 and we will be analyzing trends based on new statistical information in the upcoming years.

AQ: In closing, any thoughts on where literacy and ABE could be headed into the future in your province?

LP: There are a number of potential directions for the future of adult education in Manitoba.

  • We could explore enhancing the distance delivery of programming at both ALPs and ALCs through online learning and blended learning models.
  • Another area for exploration would be to work more closely with employers and training providers for adult education programming that leads more directly to employment.
  • And another area for exploration could be to enhance programming success for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged adults who face multiple barriers, including academic skills and credentials.

AQ: Thank you very much for this overview, Lynette. If readers want further general information, what is the best Website to use? And who can they contact for more detailed questions? 

LP: Allan, thank you for the opportunity to talk about adult learning and literacy in Manitoba.

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#3. How is Adult Basic Education Delivered in our own Province?

A Look at Saskatchewan’s Experience Delivering Literacy/ABE by Distance Education. 


In January we had a look at the “coordinated model” of ABE delivery in B.C. and last month’s installment focused on the more “institutionally-centered model” in Alberta.  Turning now to our own province, most of us are familiar with how our regional colleges, the Polytechnic, Dumont Technical Institute and SIIT—together with community- based providers and the school board adult campuses in Saskatoon and Regina—each deliver ABE and literacy throughout the province. Most know Saskatchewan has used a  classroom-based model since the mid-1970’s.  But there is a mode of delivery you might be less familiar with—providing literacy and BE to adult learners with distance technologies.

With the 2014 Throne Speech and the recent Budget Speech both singling out the “A-B-E waitlist in 2016-17,”  it is surely time to consider the potential of a mode of delivery that is not only geographically “border-free” throughout our regional model;  not only asynchronous–meaning classroom attendance no longer matters–but is essentially accessible by any learner at virtually any location at any time of the day or night.

But, there is a lot of controversy around this topic. I have heard practitioners say: “Literacy and basic ed’ taught on-line? No way! Our students need lots of support. Distance education delivery won’t work for our students!”

While few argue that many of our literacy/basic education  learners need more support than most other “mainstream” adult learners, we also need to ask: “Does every literacy/BE student need ‘warm body’ instruction in a structured classroom?” What is the evidence?

What about those at senior level 4 who need only a few grade 12 high school credits? What about those who are adept with technology and can’t or won’t come to our classrooms? We are talking about thousands of adult learners across Saskatchewan. The trend is towards distance education.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has been experimenting with the Ontario-based Arrowmight distance program at the 1-2 Basic Education level for the last couple of years. And, the last time I checked, it was going very well using local tutors for support.  With more years of experience, Parkland College is now in its 11th year of successfully delivering grade 12 ABE  courses on-line. And, again, there is an ongoing option of personal support with the Parkland program.

So what is the potential of distance education for our field of literacy and basic education? What are the limitations?

This month’s installment is my recent interview with Kami DePape, Director of Academics and Student Services at Parkland College. Kami talks about the Parkland experience and, importantly, she adds that ABE level 3 could also be offered by distance technologies.

Does distance education have the potential to build a whole new mode of delivery across this province? Could we reach hundreds more learners by expanding this model?

Following is my interview with Kami.


Kami DePape, Director of Academics and Student Services at Parkland College

Kami DePape, Director of Academics and Student Services at Parkland College

AQ: “When did Parkland first begin delivering BE using distance, and why?”

KD: Parkland College started providing distance delivery for Adult 12 (Grade 12) learners within our region in 2004.

We began distance delivery to meet the needs of our face-to-face students, to expand their programming options and to maximize staff specializations. We had a highly skilled staff member then with expertise in the area of computers and information processing who was eager to deliver computer training to other campuses.

It seemed like a good way to help our level four students and has proven to be highly successful since.

AQ: What levels of BE do you offer?

KD: Currently, we offer 20 and 30-level asynchronous programming through our distance school, which was officially launched provincially in 2009.  We also have grade 12 face-to-face staff teaching our campus-based levels 2, 3 and 4 Adult Basic Education programs. These are in addition to the 3 instructors in our distance program.”

AQ: How many students do you typically have in the distance program each year? Are they all located in the Parkland region?

KD: The average enrolment per year since 2009 is 275 learners.  Many of these take multiple 20 or 30-level subjects, so the actual course registrations are higher. We have served 1,379 learners over the past 5 years, all at level four, meaning 20 and 30-level courses leading to a high school diploma.

In 2013-14, we served 316 learners—our highest enrolment ever.  The numbers seem to be rising. The majority of the learners are from across Saskatchewan.  However, we have had learners in other provinces, from Europe and the United States who originated from Saskatchewan.

AQ: Do more younger students enroll than more mature adult students? I ask because it seems younger people are just more “tech-savvy?”

KD: No, there is a mix of ages as well as a mix of technical skills.

AQ: And what about instructors?  Can you tell us about then? How many are on staff now and are they all in the Parkland region? 

KD: We have three dedicated staff and, if there is capacity and need, we get assistance from our face-to-face instructors.  One of our distance-dedicated instructors relocated to BC and we were able to continue working with her from B.C. since this is all on-line instruction. We also have support from a counsellor, a coordinator, a program assistant, the IT staff, and our registrar.  Our team is very strong and dedicated to making online learning successful.

AQ: So how do your instructors actually teach on-line? Do they ever meet their students face-to-face?” 

KD: If students are within the region, they can request to meet our instructors.  The students can also Skype with their instructors, so a face is connected to the name.  All the courses also contain an introductory video from the instructor so that students can see their face. These introductory videos help students learn how to navigate in our on-line classrooms.  

AQ: Roughly what proportion of the distance education students actually do come to campus to meet their instructors—or use Skype to talk with their instructor? I’m asking because it is so often assumed that all basic education students need “warm-body” contact and support. What is your experience on the need for personal contact and support in your distance program?

KP: The vast majority of students communicate with their instructors by e-mail and instant messaging within D2L 9 [Desire to learn].  The next most popular communication method is by phone, followed lastly, and rarely, by Skype.  If the students are in our region, they can meet face-to-face with their instructor.  We also offer support through counselling and tutoring. 

In my experience, the need for support is greater the lower the literacy level and computer skills.  Many of our learners in the Grade 12 Online program are highly motivated individuals with a strong goal attached to the course completion – job, promotion, etc.  These ones need less support.

AQ: What is the student retention rate in the distance program?

KD: Our retention rate over the past 5 years has been 83%.

AQ: And what kind of feedback do you get from your students–and your instructors? How successful do you think this type of delivery is? 

KD: We have student feedback surveys in each course.  Most people appreciate the ongoing support provided by our staff.  I think that is what makes us unique in the online system.  Some learners admittedly struggle with this independent self-paced learning. It is not for everyone, but it provides access to those who have no face-to-face alternatives due to work or location. 

Our instructors try to interact regularly with students.  If students are submitting assignments on a regular basis, they will receive regular written feedback from the instructor. If students are not submitting work regularly, they will receive an email after 2 weeks of absence from the course. When instructors generate their mark-reports at the end of each month, they will contact students who have not submitted anything in the past month.  

Our instructors are dedicated to providing quality online instruction.  Establishing a good rapport with distance learners is the key to success.  A high level of support is also important.  The counsellor is involved when there is a student struggling with the work or not submitting work.  She initiates a contact with them, usually by phone, to provide intervention.  The coordinator may also be involved in student support.

Our instructors also appreciate the opportunity and time to upgrade their courses annually. This year, we had an instructional designer evaluate our courses and provide training to the staff. I believe that distance delivery can be a very successful option with the right supports and staffing. 

AQ: The Polytechnic is experimenting with the Arrowmight program for levels 1-2, but do you think the level 3 curriculum could also be delivered by distance? How would that work? What would the challenges be?

KD:  I have read cases of literacy programming being delivered successfully by distance.  Therefore, I think the Level 3 curriculum could be delivered by distance.  Again, I think staffing, support and design are keys to success. 

The courses and staff need to be engaging.  Students also need a satisfactory level of computer technical skills and motivation to be successful.  Good communication and rapport between instructors and students is crucial and can be challenging through distance. Being able to incorporate group work in an asynchronous format can also be difficult.

Another option for ABE may be a blended model of distance learning with tutor support.  We have experimented with this option in the past with good success.  It provided that face-to-face support person with the instructor being at a distance.

AQ: I understand there was an agreement among colleges and the former SIAST (now Polytechnic) that Parkland would be the province’s BE distance education provider. Is that still in place? Should there be such an agreement or should that approach change?

 KD: The Senior Academic Officers (SAO’s) from the College system agreed to this several years ago at one of their meetings.  I am not sure a formal document was ever signed.  We have been operating under this informal agreement since then.  Most of the Colleges, Sask Polytechnic, and DTI have been great supporters of our program.  We work collaboratively to meet the needs of the learners and provide a support system.

 AQ: Any final thoughts about ABE and distance education for Saskatchewan?

KD: I think distance learning provides great opportunities for the future in Saskatchewan.  Learners will become more accustomed to this platform and their expectations regarding technology will increase.  We are becoming a society with everything at our fingertips.  Educational opportunities through distance will become an increasingly popular option.

AQ: Thanks, Kami. You have provided the field with some real food for thought.  I can imagine some might want to contact you for further information.  Thanks again.

Comments always welcome (and see how we have added both Twitter @SARN2014 and Facebook to our discussion options).

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#2. How is Adult Literacy & Basic Education Delivered in Other Provinces…A Look at Alberta.


Last Month:

Last month we had a look at British Columbia’s system of Adult Basic Education delivery. We saw that B.C. has an impressive delivery system as it:

  • includes an annually updated provincial Guide to ABE that is widely distributed and used across the province by learners, institutions and referral agencies. This Guide was begun over 20 years ago and is still annually updated.
  • includes two routes to ABE completion. Students can be awarded one completion certificate as offered by B.C’s Ministry of Advanced Education (the “Dogwood Certificate”) based on a standardized postsecondary ABE curriculum; or, they can pursue the high school grade 12 diploma offered by the Ministry of Education. This means, B.C’s basic education students can choose a high school completion route through most B.C. postsecondary institutes (and all of the B.C. school board adult campuses), or they can go towards an ABE Dogwood certificate offered by Advanced Education.

Last month I wondered if Saskatchewan should have two completion routes as well? We’ll see later that Manitoba and Ontario also have both a high school and a postsecondary completion route choice for ABE students.

  • We also saw that B.C. has a huge province-wide ABE system of delivery through school boards. Adult basic education centres and campuses run by school boards enrol as many or more ABE students as all the colleges and polytechnics combined in B.C.

And, I should add that B.C. has one of the few Bachelor degrees in Adult Education in Canada. It is offered at the University of the Fraser Valley/Abbotsford. Secondly, while virtually every province has a Masters degree in Adult Education offered at one or more of their universities, the Adult Education Masters and Doctoral programs at UBC are the oldest in Canada. And, these programs have been ranked #1 among adult education graduate programs in North America many times year after year.

Turning to Alberta:

Looking now at ABE delivery in Alberta, we see a very different model—one with a clear, specific, purpose for adult basic education. That province’s policies have long seen adult basic education as a route towards further technical/trades training and/or entry to the workforce.  ABE is not generally understood to be a route to high school completion.

And it has long been this way in Alberta. I can remember when the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education began its new thrust in Further Education back in the mid-1970’s.  I had just begun as a “Voc-Prep’” instructor at what was then a cluster of trailers housed on the edge of Ft. McMurray. These “mobile homes” were the Fort McMurray Alberta Vocational Centre. From that humble beginning has grown one of Alberta’s largest and most impressive campuses–Keyano College. I clearly remember the new “Further Education” thrust in Alberta back then because, in late 1975,  I moved from teaching ABE to be the AVC’s first Director of Further Education. A whole new term and outreach concept. The next year, as I said, our AVC became today’s Keyano College.

And listen to this….

I remember one afternoon when the President of the College called an emergency meeting of the management to tell us the Ministry of Advanced Education in Edmonton (we called it the “head-shed”) had just called and asked if we could take “another million dollars?” Turned out the Ministry had “some money left over” at the end of the fiscal year. Apparently, other colleges like Olds College and Red Deer College had each taken a couple million, so, “Couldn’t we take ‘at least a million?’Remember, this was 1976. Imagine how much money that would be as in today’s dollars! After a brief discussion, it was agreed we just couldn’t take any more money. Not even a “mere million.” We would be lucky to spend the huge budget we had by the end of the fiscal year.

How often does that happen in a life time?

These were the heady days when Alberta launched its new Further Education thrust delivering adult learning programs through what has now become 80 widely dispersed Community Adult Learning Councils around Alberta. We are talking about a long, rich heritage of adult education in our neighbouring province.

 Why Adult Basic Education?

But here’s the first point….just as I was a “voc-prep” instructor in the early 1970’s, today ABE is still basically about job-entry and trades/technical training.  Secondly, it is fair to say each Alberta college and polytechnic tends to “do their own thing” with ABE.

Let’s take a look.

I interviewed a senior administrator in the ABE program at Calgary’s Bow Valley College—one of the largest programs in Alberta. He explained that Alberta’s Education Act is being reviewed; but, at present, there is:

  • no uniform provincial ABE curriculm,
  • no standardized graduation certification for ABE graduates,
  • ABE completion certification and curricula are provided by the individual provider institution—not the province.
  • no provincial training allowances (although there can be assistance through the Alberta Works program),
  • school boards are not widely involved in ABE.

Bottom line, ABE is delivered by providers in order, as my interviewee said, to help adults upgrade and meet “pre-technical needs.” Here, for instance, is what NAIT’s Website states: “Students who complete the Academic Upgrading program do not receive a certificate or diploma, and do not receive course credits toward an Alberta Learning High School diploma. However, the courses are accepted as entrance requirements at NAIT and at all other Alberta post-secondary institutions”( December 12 –”

However, while there are undoubtedly benefits to, “doing your own thing,” that may be changing. The Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Advanced Education has, “plans to publish a Comprehensive Credentials Framework for Alberta’s post-secondary system in 2015 ….  A consultation process with key stakeholders is currently underway.”

The Role of Non-Profit & Community-Based Providers:

What was also very interesting in my interview was how Bow Valley College and other providers in Calgary work hard at partnering with non-profit and community-based providers to delivery literacy and ABE in Calgary. Many of the lower level ABE programs, for example, are located in  community-based centres in the communities where learners live and feel comfortable. Bow Valley College, as I was told, works with libraries, Aboriginal centres, civic facilities, the United Way and any number of organizations—providers and non-providers alike—to have their ABE programs located in free or low-rent facilities where learners live.


In last month’s blog, I wondered if Saskatchewan should have two routes for students.  If Saskatchewan should bring back the ABE 11 and 12 ABE curricula and completion certificate to supplement our current high school completion route? The focused purpose of ABE delivery in Alberta as a technical/trades training and job entry program seems to even strengthen the idea… Maybe there should be a training or high school ABE choice for learners? Meaning, an ABE 11/12 completon certification as well as our current high school certificate route?

What do you think?

Secondly, how interesting to see how the huge Bow Valley College seeks to outreach its ABE lower-level programs (especially) around Calgary by renting or partnering with other organizations (not always literacy providers) to not only maximize the city’s resources and facilities, but get literacy and ABE into the areas where learners live.

On this point, I wonder aloud:  “Who should be responsible for adult literacy and ABE delivery anyway?” The adult literacy literature has long argued that issues of adult lower literacy are society’s issues. They don’t all have to fall on the shoulders of one or more  ministries, or singular delivery systems or campuses… After all, adult literacy and basic education involve a complex of issues from food security, to health issues, to family-related issues, to the need for further training and job entry, to—yes—a social component in the lives of adult learners. Moreover, unlike school where kids are required by law to go to school, our adult learners are volunteer learners. The challenge we have is engaging and retaining adults with respnsive approaches that accommodate the lives and needs of a speical population of adult learners.  

In closing…It is sure interesting to see how each province addresses that same learner population.  I hope you agree.

Stay with the Journey: 

Be sure to tune in next month. I expect the next installment will focus on either Manitoba’s delivery system which, in my opinion, has a lot of lessons for us, or… well, tune in to see. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Make a difference.


Comments always welcome in the comments box appearing below.

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How is Adult Literacy & Basic Education Delivered in Other Provinces? #1. A Look at British Columbia

I have met people who insist that B.C. has been Canada’s leader in adult literacy and basic education for many years (…. actually I know a whole lot more who insist B.C. is the only place to live, especially in winter, but that needs a longer blog).

But, here are six reasons (at least) to think they might have a point about literacy and ABE.

1. CORE FUNDING: Way back in the mid-1970’s, when I was setting up the ABE and ESL programs at the—then—Regina Plains Community College,  worrying that we might not get funded the next year, and the next… and if I should even stay in this crazy field, I heard that B.C. had already put core grants in place so their ABE programs would have funding stability. That was my first (grim) introduction to how B.C. just might have been ahead of Saskatchewan.

2. ACTION RESEARCH LEADERS: Then, in about 1990, I was at a Professors of Adult Education conference in California and sat in on a panel of basic education practitioners talking about the growing literacy action research movement in the U.S.A. This was the first time I had heard about action research and its connection to literacy. I was really interested. Only to later learn that B.C. (and be discussed next month) had a province-wide action research movement well underway.

Actually, if you can take a minute, check out a great research project that a number of B.C. practitioners did some years ago. It is just as relevant today as then….entitled, Hardwired for Hope. I want to plug this study a bit. Several senior literacy/basic education instructors interviewed practitioners across B.C. to determine what qualities a truly effective literacy/BE instructor should have. Very interesting… If you can get your hands of the full report, it concludes with a list of qualities to look for when hiring new instructors. Worth a look?


3. TASK GROUPS AND CANADA’S MOST LITERATE PROVINCE: When I was interviewing people in B.C. for this blog, trying to get updated, I learned that during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics funding was granted to the field to develop some 102 Task Groups across the province to investigate literacy needs—from early childhood to adulthood. They sought to hear local ideas to determine best ways to more effectively meet the province’s literacy needs. The Task Groups consisted of employers, social service workers, educators and local leaders, among others.

And, at the time–and you may have heard about this–the government was promising that B.C. would become “Canada’s most literate province.” Not so sure if that was the final outcome, but B.C. surely has initiated some impressive thrusts that I think we could learn a lot from.

Here are a few examples we might think about:

4. A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO UPGRADING PROGRAMS: Over 20 years ago, the B.C. government began supporting their major ABE/literacy providers to help them develop a guide entitled: Adult Basic Education: A Guide to Upgrading in British Columbia’s Public Post-Secondary Institutions. Check it out?  I learned in one of my recent interviews that this guide is still updated with annual practitioner meetings. As was explained to me, on-line contact and annual meetings among lead instructors not only keep the Guide updated, but practitioners are able to share new materials and discuss best practices in their respective teaching areas and disciplines.

As far as I know, B.C. is the only province that has such a comprehensive guide. How sensible to have learners, practitioners, employers and educators at all levels having an updated, plain language, guide. Potential students and those that advise them can easily find out what literacy and ABE opportunities are available, where the programs are, what these adult education programs actually consist of….

Makes me wonder if this might one day be possible in our province? This may be worth thinking about?


In B.C. adults have a choice of graduating with either a grade 12 High School Diploma from the school system, or an Adult Graduate Diploma (AGD), also know as the Dogwood Diploma. This means B.C. offers two level 12 completion diplomas: the grade 12 diploma from the Ministry of Education and the more adult-oriented, Adult Graduation Diploma, from the Ministry of Advanced Education.  Although these two diplomas are not necessarily seen as equivalent among employers or universities, B.C. adult learners do have a choice.

This matters in several ways. For instance, I was told by one whom I interviewed that B.C. colleges and polytechnics often tailor their ABE 11-12 course selections with individual students so every students does not have to take all of the compulsory high school courses. The postsecondary training institutions therefore have the flexibility with the Adult Graduation Diploma to adapt individual student programs so students only need to study the ABE 11-12 prerequisites required for the trades programs they are entering.

Actually, Saskatchewan once had both an ABE 11 and a 12 curriculum. The Department of Continuing Education—later Advanced Education and Manpower—used to award provincial ABE completion diplomas at these  levels as well. I can attest to this since I remember how a group of ABE instructors from the, then, Saskatoon Region Community College, the Couteau Range Community College in Moose Jaw, and several of my ABE staff from Regina Plains Community College spent a long (hot) summer at the Uof S developing the first provincial 11-12 curricula. And, I remember how, when I was with Advanced Education and Manpower in Colleges Branch, we supported not only the GED but ABE 11-12 diplomas as well. Today, Saskatchewan adults have the high school grade 12 as their only option in ABE.

Makes me wonder if our ABE 11-12 curricula and ABE completion diploma should be re-instated?   Might be worth thinking about….?


B.C. and Ontario both have long histories of school boards offering ABE— especially grade 11-12 high school courses for high school completion. These ABE courses are free for full-time adult learners of any age over 18. And, in institutions such as the Vancouver Community College (with over 2,000 ABE students each year), the younger adult learners are effectively streamed separately from the more mature adult learners, a point discussed more further along in this blog.

The people I talked with in B.C. said their school boards enrol at least as many adults learners as their colleges and polytechnic systems combined. ABE courses are typically offered in school board adult education facilities at adult campuses or adult high schools.

To the best of my knowledge, only the Saskatoon School Board has two adult campuses:  their Royal West campus and the other at Nutana Collegiate. The Regina School Board has an Adult Campus in downtown Regina. However, in Saskatchewan, unlike B.C., Manitoba and Ontario, only those 21 years of age and younger qualify for full-time free high school courses.

Should there be more of these campuses for the 21 years of age and younger adult group?  There is a strong argument that younger adults typically do far better among their own cohort than when mixed in with older returning adults.  Vancouver Community College and school boards across Ontario typically stream the younger adults into different cohorts from the more mature adults, and I was told that Nutana and Royal West do the same thing… With annual waiting list for several of our ABE programs in Saskatchewan, and the huge role of school boards in other juriscictions, it makes me wonder…

And here’s an interesting B.C. trend that I heard about… Some colleges and polytechnics are teaching ABE courses simultaneously with trades courses.  Effectively, ABE is embedded in the trade classes and made as relevant as possible to the trade program’s vocabulary and curricula. ABE and trades aren’t seen as separate areas of study.  For instance, students may have their ABE courses in the morning and their trades classes in the afternoon—possibly in the same room or shop space but with different instructors. I guess having an ABE 11 & 12 curriculum and ABE completion diploma helps on this one.

And one more interesting idea. High schools are evidently beginning to encourage some of their 10, 11 and grade 12 students to go over to the local postsecondary institutions to attend some of the trades courses. And they receive high school credit for attending a trades course. This way younger students get an up-close and personal look at various trades training programs–nothing hypothetical.  Young students get hands-on experience for credit, and education is more seamless with clearer learner pathways.

Pretty interesting?

I do hope this blog instalment inspires some thought, maybe some discussion… and I hope you will stay tuned.

At the end of February we will take a look at what Alberta does with their literacy and ABE programs, then on to Manitoba and Ontario.

Until then,

Comments are always welcome on this website


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