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The many faces of Adult Basic Education

Posted on September 10, 2018



For most families, “back to school” is a happy ritual marked by new clothes, fresh school supplies, and reunions with friends. For many other Canadians, however, education was a fragmented or even detrimental experience, with some having never gone to school at all.

This September, Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) Adult Basic Education (ABE) departments are proud to offer these learners tuition-free upgrading courses for the second year running.

Did you know that VCC has been offering adult upgrading since 1949? That’s when the then-Vancouver Vocational Institute launched programming to help World War II veterans re-enter the workforce. Ever since, VCC’s ABE English, math, science, and humanities classrooms have continued to mirror a world in crisis and help people in transition. 

In the late ‘70s, Vietnamese refugees came to get the skills needed to work in their new home. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, VCC instructors remember an influx of Jamaicans fleeing poverty caused by a failing economy. Today, many ABE students trace their roots to Syria, Iran, Nigeria, and other conflict zones. Many others are Indigenous residential school survivors or long-time Canadians trying to keep pace with a changing job market.  

“Our classrooms are an incredibly diverse cross-section of Canadian society today,” says Andrew Candela, department leader for Basic Education at VCC. “These are some of the most hardworking and persistent students we have. It’s inspiring to see them dedicate themselves to something that we really take for granted.”

“Eliminating tuition for these programs gives people a viable pathway to change their lives,” says Andrew, adding that increasing numeracy and literacy has shown to improve health outcomes and incomes, while reducing the need for policing and first-response services.

Every student has a story

This fall, as VCC celebrates the one-year anniversary of the B.C. Government’s decision to eliminate tuition for ABE and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, we’re shining a spotlight on some of our most inspiring students. Read their stories:



Amir’s story: finding refuge

Amir Taghinia has accomplished a lot since arriving in Vancouver as a refugee only 10 months ago. He’s found a place to live, started a full-time job, enrolled school, learned to cook, and even goes to the gym. For Amir, however, it’s not enough. After spending almost five years facing danger and uncertainty on a remote Pacific island, his new status in Canada is no excuse to sit back and relax. READ MORE >



Alicia’s story: new to nursing 

When Alicia Bruyere’s mother suffered a stroke, it was a nurse’s kindness and open communication that made her hospital stay bearable. This experience inspired Alicia to pursue nursing herself. She already had a full-time job, however, and no idea how to change careers. READ MORE >



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