Adult Education in BC s public schools: Lost opportunities for students, employers, and society

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1 Adult Education in BC s public schools: Lost opportunities for students, employers, and society A BCTF study of working and learning conditions Margaret White and Charlie Naylor BCTF Research June 2015 In collaboration with the Adult Education Advisory Committee all images istock except chapter 1 top photo

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3 Adult Education in BC s public schools: Lost opportunities for students, employers, and society A BCTF study of working and learning conditions Key findings, by chapter This study was conducted by BCTF Research, in collaboration with the Adult Education Advisory Committee June 2015 This study includes seven chapters on the survey results, followed by two discussion papers. Survey results 1: Adult educators who responded to the survey and the settings in which they teach The survey elicited 103 valid responses from adult educators in 11 school districts Compared to all teachers in province, adult educators in the survey are: o similar by gender but not by teaching experience late-career teachers are over-represented early-career teachers are under-represented Most (91.3%) teach in adult learning centres, 41.7% teach in more than one workplace English/Communications is the course most taught (76.7%). About one-quarter of respondents teach Math, Social Studies, and/or Science courses. 2: Adult educators in BC public schools: Who are the students they teach? One-half of respondents indicated having either a few or some Aboriginal students in their teaching setting, and 1 in 5 indicated having none Adult educators indicated most students in their class are immigrants/refugees from the following four countries/places of origin East Asia, South Asia, Middle East, and Southeast Asia. (Note: some indicated most for more than one place of origin) Data shows the diverse educational backgrounds and learning needs of students attending adult education programs 6 in 10 survey respondents teach Graduated Adults (will be affected by Ministry of Education change to Education Guarantee). 3. Adult educators education and Professional Development Compared to 2009 Worklife of BC teachers 1 survey data: adult educators are also highly educated, slightly more so; a higher proportion are currently enrolled in an education program, or planning to enrol One-third are not pursuing further education for reason of financial restraints While the quantitative data suggests adult educators have access to paid PD, the qualitative data reveals barriers to accessing PD opportunities, being paid for PD, and having PD options that focus on issues relevant to Adult Education. 1 BCTF Research 1

4 Adult Education in BC s public schools: A BCTF study 4. Working conditions and workload issues in Adult Education Hours of work per year: One-half of adult educators are part-time and one-half are full-time, with some overlap in total instructional hours About one-half work at least 900 hours, while 1 in 6 teachers work 400 hours or less One-half are involuntary part-time employees, seeking full-time contracts 1 in 4 had their assignment reduced by the school district since (reduced by: -10% to -100%) Workload issues: Prep time and unpaid time One-third of respondents have paid preparation time in contract Qualitative data reveals sense of injustice and frustration by some adult educators over not having same preparation time as secondary teachers, despite heavy workloads Quantitative data shows the greatest number of adult education teachers spend the most amount of unpaid time on Marking (6.64 hrs) and Doing preparation (6.38 hrs), and spent from 1 to 2 hours per week each on several other teaching-related activities. Over one-half spend from 10 to 30 unpaid hours/week on teaching-related activities. Workload issues: Split shifts and breaks Almost one-half work split shifts and two-thirds work evenings; the qualitative comments illustrate the challenges with irregular, ever-changing, and split schedules While about one-half have lunch provisions in their contract, only one-third of these adult educators took a lunch break most or all of the time Over one-third having 10 minutes or less break between classes only a few described schedules that allowed for sufficient breaks most are spending breaks responding to student needs after the class ends and the next begins. 5. Adult educators views on working conditions and sources of stress Change in job satisfaction, workload, and stress compared to 5 years ago: 57% reported decreased job satisfaction (compared to 42.7% for Worklife survey) Two-thirds of adult educators reported increased workload and stress. Views on Adult Education as a career About one-half (43.7%) would not recommend adult education as a career for reasons such as ongoing cuts to adult education programs, and therefore limited career prospects 40% are considering leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement (double the 20% of teachers in the Worklife survey). Reasons include difficulty finding/keeping a full-time contract, instability and uncertain future of profession. Sources of work-related stress Quantitative analysis Top 5 stressors that the most teachers experience: (From 74.8% to 80.6% said Yes) 1. Attitude of the provincial government 2. Adequacy of resources for students with special learning needs 3. Unmet needs of students 4. Job insecurity 5. Reconfiguration of adult education programs. 2 BCTF Research

5 Key findings, by chapter Top 5 most stressful factors (by level of stress): 1. Attitude of the provincial government 2. Job insecurity 3. Reconfiguration of adult education programs 4. Inadequate prep time 5. Lack of control over course schedules. Sources of job satisfaction and work stress: Qualitative analysis Themes Fulfilling and rewarding to work with adult students and feeling they make a difference in their lives, but working conditions lower job satisfaction Multiple sources of stress related to workload, job instability, increase in ministry directives, and administrative tasks Disparities with K to 12 teachers in prep time, portability of seniority, and PD Ongoing cuts to Adult Education are increasing workload; means less time to spend with students, job insecurity, and anxiety about how they will be affected by funding cuts. Effects of stress 30% to 45% experience negative indicators of work stress most or all of the time About 1 in 4 (28.2%) have good work-life balance most or all of the time Only 1 in 5 have enough energy left at the end of the day most or all of the time, after completing teaching responsibilities (predictor of work fatigue). 6. Adult educators views on the impact of poverty on adult learners and the adequacy of resources to support them Poverty in adult education programs and how it has changed Almost all adult educators have students experiencing poverty in their teaching setting, and 1 in 6 adult educators indicated at least one-half of students they teach are in poverty 1 in 3 respondents said poverty had changed since they began at their school/centre and 43.7% Didn t know. Of those who said poverty changed, 75% indicated an increase Adult educators had a lot to say about how poverty has changed, especially about how funding cuts have reduced resources to address poverty-related needs (eyeglasses, transportation, childcare, food), making it harder for these students to complete courses, as have new auditing requirements and less access to flexible programs. Poverty-related barriers and adequacy of resources to address these barriers Most (71% to 88.3%) teach students who encounter barriers such as work-schedule conflicts, childcare, transportation, illness/disability, financial, and unstable housing Adult educators rated the adequacy of resources very low. The percentage who rated the adequacy of resources as either Not very adequate or Not at all adequate is o Staff training on poverty issues (82.8%), o Food programs (73.2%), o Administrative support (68.5%), o Counselling services (66.7%) and o Access to computers outside of school hours (60.2%). The qualitative and quantitative data indicate a need for more counsellors to assist adult students with poverty-related needs (cutbacks in counsellors shifted workload to teachers) Many commented about how funding cuts have undermined the types of supports that provided the flexibility (self-paced programs, restrictive rules) and resources (counsellors, outreach workers) for students experiencing poverty to overcome povertyrelated barriers to completing their education. BCTF Research 3

6 Adult Education in BC s public schools: A BCTF study 7. Priority areas for improving working and learning conditions in Adult Education Adult educators were asked to rank how important each point in a list of priority areas of focus for improving working and learning conditions in Adult Education was, on a scale of 1 ( not at all important ) to 5 ( very important ). Top 5 priorities: 1. Aim for parity with K-12 teachers 2. More paid time for planning and preparation 3. Improve opportunities for collaboration with peers 4. Address workload issues 5. Provide/improve specialist teaching support (Address scheduling issues and Improve PD opportunities also tied for 5th place) Many commented about why parity with K-12 teachers matters, and about the need to raise awareness about the distinct needs of adult education students. Discussion papers: Policy changes, implications, and future directions 8. Recent policy changes and funding cuts to Adult Education: Moving towards a less equal and more unjust society A discussion paper Statistics Canada data provides evidence that: High-school completion rates in BC improve significantly after taking into account young adults (20 to 24 years) who complete high school, after the age of 19, in adult education programs. Young adults who live in rural areas, or who are First Nations or Métis, or are members of some immigrant groups, are at a much greater risk of not completing high-school. Completing a post-secondary education further increases labour market opportunities and earnings, and reduces the risk of unemployment. Recent policy changes and funding cuts in Adult Education: The Education Guarantee acted as an incentive for adults to upgrade their academic qualifications, removing a significant barrier to post-secondary training. After the Education Guarantee was introduced in 2008, Graduated Adults as a percentage of all adult students increased from 18.1% in to 55.5% in The ministry s recent policy decision to stop funding tuition for Graduated Adults through the Education Guarantee means a $9 million cut to the education budget and affects thousands of adult students. This policy change, combined with funding pressures on school districts, is resulting in job loss for adult education teachers, closure of adult learning centres in some districts, and reduced access to adult education programs. See footnotes in Chapter 8 for full references. 4 BCTF Research

7 Key findings, by chapter 9. Implications and possible directions for BCTF advocacy in support of Adult Education in public schools A discussion paper There are multiple arguments which identify the imperative to support those adult students who are trying to complete their education in the K to 12 public school system and prepare for post-secondary studies or upgrading skills for employment purposes. There is an imperative to support Adult Education as a poverty-reduction strategy. The goal of poverty reduction is not linked to charity but to the respect for fundamental human rights to provide opportunities for all to succeed in terms of work and participation in society. It also has considerable economic and social utility that benefits all members of society and the government of the province. There is a need to provide accessible adult education programs in the public school system for students upgrading for post-secondary. The findings of this survey provide much insight into the multiple barriers that lowincome students face in attending adult education programs, and the importance of offering programs in such a way as to support students to successfully complete academic courses. Adult education students should be funded at the same level as school-aged students, and Adult Education should include the same supports for students with special needs and other additional needs. The per-student funding amount for adult education students in ($4,565) is significantly less than the funding provided for K-12 students ($7,158). This reduced and inequitable level of funding discriminates against adult students and negatively impacts the services that can be offered to them and the learning resources they can access. BCTF will continue to advocate for Adult Education in general, and address the working conditions of its members who are adult educators. One such working condition will be addressed through the committee to discuss the issue of preparation time for adult educators, established through Letter of Understanding 14, in the 2014 Memorandum of Agreement that ended the last round of bargaining. The entire study can be found online at MW:af:tfeu BCTF Research 5

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