Commentary on the Alberta Liberal Party ESL Funding Proposal
Todays election commentary looks at the Alberta Liberal proposal to increase English as a Second Language funding by $76 million per year.
The Alberta Liberal Party is proposing to improve
English as a Second Language (ESL) services in three ways: a 50%
increase in ESL funding for Alberta schools; a $20 million increase in
adult ESL programs delivered by immigrant/refugee serving agencies or in
the workplace. The total cost of these initiatives is estimated at $76
million annually (Alberta Liberal Party, 2012).
ESL affects relatively few Albertans many of whom are
not yet citizens or even voting. ESL is not the kind of issue that
usually gets much attention during election campaigns. Despite its low
profile, ESL is still a critically important program to support. Proficiency in the English language is a key to educational and
employment success for both adult newcomers and their children.
support for adult ESL learners is welcome and needed especially when
the federal government is cutting back immigrant and refugee settlement
services. Learning English while on the job is especially
cost-effective in a province dealing with growing labour shortages.The
Liberal plan to significantly boost ESL funding for schools is likely to
have the biggest long-term pay-off for Alberta society. Most children
who require ESL instruction in schools are from refugee backgrounds many
of them arriving from conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East. Civil conflict may also have resulted in an interruption of their formal
education. They may also be dealing with the aftermath of trauma or
even torture. Without specialized supports, including help learning the
English language, these children and teenagers risk of falling behind
their Canadian peers. They are at higher risk of dropping out of school
and in some cases vulnerable to being recruited into gangs. The good
news is that school age children are often able to learn a new language
more easily than adults.