Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program
Appendix A: LINC - A statistical portrait
This appendix draws a profile of the LINC Program, its students and its teachers. Information is drawn from the SPO, learner and teacher surveys along with the class information form. Data from HARTs was added to the survey data for missing SPO concerning number of classes and number of students. Thus for these important variables the analysis excludes data from only four SPOs. Because SPO data represent the population of the program, no statistical testing is required when comparing groupsFootnote 51. Relevant statistics will be presented for learner, teacher and CIF data. Strengths and weaknesses of LINC conclude Appendix A.
Modes of delivery
LINC was initially designed to provide basic language training and knowledge about Canada. When it was established in 1992 it offered three levels of LINC training. The first curriculum guidelines were drafted in 1993 for levels 1 to 3. In 1997, LINC levels 4 and 5 were introduced (though only in Ontario) and in 1998 the curriculum guidelines were expanded and revised to reflect Canadian Language Benchmarks Working Document (1996)Footnote 52. The guidelines were combined into one document in 2001 and amended to be consistent with the new Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) 2000. In late 2006, programming began in Ontario for LINC 6 and 7 and curriculum guidelines were developed for those levels. At present LINC levels 1 through 5 are available across Canada; level 6 is available in Nova Scotia; levels 6 and 7 are available in Ontario. In addition, literacy classes are available for newcomers who score pre-benchmark levels on the CLBA.
For the most part, LINC is still a classroom-based program. Approximately 95% of LINC students attend classes. This may be a standard school classroom or a room in a commercial building.
The primary alternate mode of delivery is via the LINC Home Study Program. Home Study students may take the course online or through correspondence. Both options feature a weekly phone conversation between teacher and student. Eligible for the program are adult newcomers (17 years of age and older) who are assessed at LINC levels 2 to 7. They must be unable to attend regular LINC classes because there are none available locally, or due to shift work, lack of transportation, lack of available child care or chronic illness. The program, administered by the Centre for Education and Training in Mississauga, is available in a number of Ontario communities and in Saskatchewan, PEI, Newfoundland; it is currently being piloted in Alberta and Nova Scotia. It is currently being piloted in Nova Scotia and Alberta. In addition, a combined classroom and Home Study model for rural areas is being tested in northern Ontario and northern Alberta. It is internet-based but itinerant teachers visit for one session per week. As of May, 2009, there were about 950 Home Study students, about 3% of all LINC learners in Canada.
The first graph presents the geographic breakdown of the SPOs in Canada. Nearly three-quarters of the providers were located in Ontario. Most of the balance of SPOs (21.3%) was located in the Prairies-Northern Territories region, with Alberta accounting for 16%.
Figure A-1: LINC SPOs by region
Text version: LINC SPOs by region
Figure A-2 reveals the distribution of LINC service providers by organization type. About two-thirds were community-based agencies.
Figure A-2: Type of service provider
Number of classes, teachers and staff
Table A.1 shows program information during mid-spring 2009 for all LINC providersFootnote 53. Ontario accounted for about three-quarters of the learners, instructors and classes. Almost 90% of the classes featured continuous intake.
Table A-1: Basic program information for Canada’s LINC Program, mid-spring 2009
* Note: Excludes non-respondents to survey outside Ontario (HARTS data used for non-respondents within Ontario).
|Program Information*||Atlantic||Ontario||Prairies & Northern Territories||BC/Yukon||Canada|
Number of classes (full andpart-time)
|Number of registered students||1,002||21,964||5,121||9||28,096|
|Number of individual instructors||75||1,265||354||2||1,696|
|Number of program supervisors/ lead instructors/coordinators||10||191||56||1||258|
The data above yield an average class size of 12.8 learners. Using data from HARTS instead of survey data for Ontario cases, the mean class size is 13.7. The difference may be because the HARTS data and survey data are from a different week in May or because some administrators may have provided estimates in the survey.
Over half (58%) the LINC SPOs also offered ESL training for adult newcomers.
Dynamics of enrolment
In spring, 2009, the typical LINC class in Canada had approximately 18 students enrolledFootnote 54
. But that mean masks a great deal of activity. The classes began with 17 students on average; but because over 90% of classes feature continuous enrolment, the typical class surveyed had 9 more students join during the term. Between the start of the term and the time of the survey, 6 students had dropped out and 2 had graduated or transferred to another class.
Table A-2: Enrolment dynamics
* Excludes Home Study cases because they are not “classes” as such but are classified by city.
** To illustrate the degree of error associated with a sample of this size the standard error is approximately 0.8 for a margin of error of approximately ± 1.6, 19 times in 20.
|Mean number of students*|
|At the start of the term||16.7|
|Enrolled after the start of the term||9.1|
|Dropped out before completion||5.8|
|Transferred to other levels||1.8|
|Current students (June, 2009)||18.2**|
Calculating dropout rate is not straightforward because it is not known when each student joined, transferred or quit. A rough approximation is number quitting divided by the number enrolled at any time. That equals 22%. This will be an underestimate of the final dropout rate, since the term was only part way through in most programs at the time of the survey.
There are some interesting differences by region. Continuous enrolment appears to be a much larger issue in the east than elsewhere.
Table A-3: Enrolment dynamics by region
* Ontario data for this table excludes the two Home Study classes in the sample because they are not “classes” as such but are classified by city.
** ANOVA F-test with df = 2/60.
|Total students||Atlantic||Ontario*||Prairies||Statistical Significance**|
|At the start of the term||10.6||17.9||15.3||p < .05|
|Enrolled after the start of the term||15.8||10.1||3.3||p < .01|
|Dropped out before completion||5.8||6.9||2.2||p < .01|
|Transferred to other levels||4.8||1.7||1.1||p < .02|
|Current students||15.8||19.4||15.4||p > .05|
The dropout rate is similar in the Atlantic and Ontario regions; the dropout rate in the Prairies is much lower.
Figure A-3: Dropout rate by region
Source: Class Information Form
Text version: Dropout rate by region
In fact, Prairie classes experienced much less entry and exit after the start of the term than elsewhere. Alberta has a unique way of limiting the impact of continuous intake according to a key informant. For part-time (evening/Saturday) learners, they have “Managed Continuous Intake.” New students can only start on the first Monday of each month, which makes it easier for teachers and learners already in the class. For full-time learners they have “Lock-step Method” or blocked semesters. These last 12 weeks (16 weeks at colleges). New students can only enter during the first two weeks.
About 52% of the teachers of classes with continuous intake said it had an effect on the progress of other students. Asked how it affects progress, teachers said: it slows down the students because the teacher has to go back to cover previously taught materials for the sake of new students; and it sometimes disrupts the group dynamic – “students bond early in session.” Teachers with literacy learners in the class were much more likely to believe continuous intake affects progress (80%) than teachers with basic level learners (55%) or teachers with intermediate level learners (47%).
One teacher listed the pros of continuous intake:
Continuous intake gives students the opportunity to start when they are ready to begin their program. It provides flexibility and understanding of the difficult process that the students are going to when they move to another country. It also provides an opportunity for all seats to be used throughout the semester. Moreover, for current students it gives a chance to review, reinforce, and consolidate what they have learned so far.
Most of the students involved in the focus group discussions felt that continuous intake was fine. A few felt that continuous intake is a challenge, especially when someone arrives well after most of the others. Students who started LINC well after their classmates said that the other students had been understanding and helpful, however. “When you first start in a class it is pretty tough because of it being a more difficult level, but you soon fit in.”
One of the reasons students accept the concept of continuous intake is because they recognize that without this option they may have had to wait a considerable period of time to enter LINC. If intake occurred only on set dates at the beginning of the term students would be forced to wait; continuous intake allowed them much more immediate access to the program.
Classes were offered at all times of the day. This speaks to the flexibility of LINC to meet the needs of its clients.
Figure A-4: Class start time
Source: Class Information Form
Text version: Class start time
Most classes met in school classrooms (62%). Most of the rest met on the premises of community agencies that ran the class. Some classes met in the back offices of shopping malls.
Only 12% of classes targeted a specific group, almost all of which were women. One class targeted Chinese and Vietnamese newcomers.
The typical class met for 32.7 weeks and 15.7 hours per week. The next graph shows the great variety of hours offered by LINC SPOs . Only 28% of LINC classes met CIC’s definition of full-time LINC classes (25 or more hours per week).
Figure A-5: Hours per week in LINC classes
Source: Class Information Form
Text version: Hours per week in LINC classes
The next graph shows weekly class meeting days. As the graph suggests, the normal pattern is five weekday meetings per week: 72% of classes fit this pattern. Classes met 4.3 times per week on average. Nine percent of classes meet Monday through Thursday; 4% meet Monday and Wednesday; another 6% meet Tuesday and Thursday. Weekend classes are rare.
Figure A-6: Weekly class meeting days
Source: Class Information Form
Table 2-1 lists several key learner characteristics of both the population and of the sample selected for this evaluation. Close to three-quarters of LINC learners were women. The average age of LINC students as of July 1, 2009 was 38.7 years. On average LINC students had been in Canada for 2.7 years.
Table A-4: Survey respondents compare closely to the LINC population
* Data from iCAMS: discrete LINC clients in 2008
|LINC Learner Characteristic||LINC Population (2008)*||LINC Survey Respondents||LINC Case Study Survey Respondents|
|6 - 7||7.2||8.1||9.0|
|Time in Canada||Less than 1 year||23.0%||26.1%||27.2%|
|1 – 1.99 years||28.8||23.6||24.8|
|2 – 2.99 years||17.2||14.1||15.2|
|Education||Secondary or less||37.0%||39.6%||31.8%|
|Non university certificate||24.5||25.4||29.6|
The case study sample is also reasonably close to the population on all characteristics shown in the table. In the case study sample, women and older age groups are somewhat over-represented. LINC level 3 is also over-represented.
Country of origin
Figure A-7, which lists country of birth in order of frequency, shows that LINC students originate from all parts of the world, 81 different countries in all (in the graph nations accounting for less than one percent of students were combined into the “other” category). China was the nation of origin of the largest number of LINC learners (22%). Far behind in second place was India, the birth place of 8% of the students.
Figure A-7: Country of birth of LINC students
Source: Learners survey
LINC students are supposed to be landed immigrants or convention refugees. Most (93%) were landed immigrants; another 4% were convention refugees. Three percent were Canadian citizens; they should not have qualified for LINC, but most of these had got their citizenship after they began the LINC class.
Figure A-8 reveals a variation in highest level of education accomplished by LINC students before moving to Canada. Over a third of the students said they had a university degree. Another 13% had a community college diploma. At the other extreme, 3% had absolutely no education and a further 9% never made it to high school.
Figure A-8: Highest level of education completed before moving to Canada
Source: Learners survey
Text version: Highest level of education completed before moving to Canada
Before immigrating to Canada, the largest proportion (14%) of LINC students worked in managerial/government positions; jobs in the education field ranked second. About one in nine had been students in their home country. Only 4% were unemployed, although many of the missing cases, amounting to 13% of respondents on this variable, may have been unemployed.
As Figure A-9 shows, about a quarter LINC students were employed at the time the survey took place.
Figure A-9: Employment status of students
Source: Learners survey
Reasons for taking LINC
The survey asked students why they took the course. To guard against the natural tendency of respondents to say all reasons were important, the question required them to rank the reasons for taking the course. Results are tabulated below.
Table A-5: Students took the LINC course mainly to improve their English and to get a job
|Reason||Proportion ranking this # 1||Proportion ranking this among top 3||Mean rank|
|To improve English for daily life||47.1%||82.5%||1.55|
|To get a job||33.6||72.4||1.75|
|To help prepare for studying||7.5||36.6||2.21|
|To help pass a test to get certified in a trade or profession||5.2||33.1||2.18|
|To learn about Canada||2.6||26.3||2.47|
|To help prepare for citizenship test||1.9||25.7||2.64|
|To help talk with children or grandchildren||1.6||16.5||2.39|
The number one reason for taking the course was to improve English for daily life. Taking the course to get a job was ranked second. Learning about Canada does not rank highly. Students do want to learn about Canada – this was an important point brought up in most of the focus groups – but it is a tertiary concern compared to learning the language and preparing for a job.
The only statistically significant difference by LINC level concerned improving English for daily life. Learners at the basic levels (mean ranking 1.52) ranked this higher than did learners at the intermediate levels (mean ranking 1.70)Footnote 55.
Student satisfaction with LINC
A key indicator of the quality of any program is the level of satisfaction among its target group. Learners were asked to rate the two central facets of LINC – teaching the language and teaching about Canada – on the familiar A to F scale, where A means excellent, B is good, C average, D below average and F poor. On the key dimension of how well LINC teaches English, half the learners felt their course was excellent (Figure A-10). The mean grade was B +Footnote 56.
Students were also positive, albeit slightly less enthusiastic, about how well LINC has taught them about Canada, awarding a B+ grade (Figure A-11).
Mean satisfaction ratings tended to decline as LINC level rose, though in every case the mean grade was between B and A -Footnote 57.
About 89% of the students said they intended to take further LINC courses, which implies they are satisfied with their courses thus far. The most prevalent reason for saying no to this question was that students (in Alberta) had exhausted their hours for LINC. The need to work or seek a job was the second most common reason.
Figure A-10: Student rating of LINC for how well it teaches English
Text version: Student rating of LINC for how well it teaches English
Figure A-11: Student rating of LINC for what it teaches about Canada
Text version: Student rating of LINC for what it teaches about Canada
The next two figures portray students’ reckoning of how helpful the LINC course has been for reaching their goals and for understanding and speaking with Canadians in everyday life. In both ways LINC was considered very helpful by about three-quarters of learners. There were no significant differences by LINC levelFootnote 58.
Figure A-12: Helpfulness of LINC course for reaching learner goals
Source: Learners survey
Text version: Helpfulness of LINC course for reaching learner goals
Figure A-13: Helpfulness of LINC course for understanding and speaking with Canadians in daily life
Source: Learners survey
Text version: Helpfulness of LINC course for understanding and speaking with Canadians in daily life
A final aspect of student satisfaction is their propensity to drop out. Data from the class information form suggest a dropout rate of at least 22%. The student survey could not get at this directly since it was aimed at current students rather than dropouts. It did, however, examine the issue by asking whether the respondent had ever quit a course and why. Of those who had taken a previous course, 31% had quit at least one before completing it. Figure A-14 shows the reasons respondents gave for quitting a previous course. Most students quit to take a job, to look for a job, or because they moved.
There is little indication from this graph that students quit because they were dissatisfied with LINC. Only 2% said they disliked the course or teacher.
Figure A-14: Reasons for quitting previous courses
Source: Learners survey
LINC Learner suggestions for improvements
LINC learners had several suggestions for improving the program. Most often mentioned in the survey was more conversation. This included talking with the teacher, in-class conversation among students and inviting native speakers into the classroom – any opportunity to listen to and speak English. In the focus groups suggestions for improvement were often, as would be expected, reflective of what was lacking in the particular class:
- Computers (in cases where there were none) or, in other instances, more computer time
- Reference books for students
- CDs for listening practice
- Access to some of these items (books and CDs) to bring home for additional practice
- More fieldtrips to learn about the community first hand
- Longer class time (in a part-time programs) and more flexible hours (in programs that offered only day-time classes or only evening classes)
- More space (in particularly over-crowded classrooms)
- More specialty classes to better meet the needs of different learners (speaking, writing, grammar)
- More homework to provide the opportunity to practice and advance at a faster pace (this suggestion, which was given in a few different focus groups, received a mixed reaction from the group because those individuals who have families felt that they would not have time to do homework and that their time in class was a big enough commitment).
- More tests on a regular basis (again, this received a mixed reaction). Students who lobbied for this expressed frustration with not knowing how well they were progressing and when they could expect to move up to higher levels of LINC. Those who were really motivated to progress and challenge themselves argued that more frequent testing would provide them and the teacher with indicators of progress.
- Several students agreed that in lower level LINC classes the focus should be on communication, without the emphasis on grammar.
- More opportunities to interact with people (Canadians) outside of the classroom
- More levels offered by the same provider in order to maintain more consistency (not only in program delivery, but in the learners’ lives)
This section profiles LINC teachers beginning with demographics.
The overwhelming majority (85%) of LINC teachers were women.
The mean age of LINC teachers was 47.8 yearsFootnote 59. Most were in the 35 to 64 age group. Five percent were already past normal retirement age and another 25% were within 10 years of it. Comments by two teachers in the survey indicated that it is difficult attracting younger teachers into the field because of the contractual nature of most of the positions.
Figure A-15: Age distribution of teachers
Source: Teachers survey
Text version: Age distribution of teachers
Almost half the LINC teachers (46%) were not native speakers of English. This did not differ significantly by region, employer type or age group. Having a LINC teacher whose first language was not English was an issue for some students, judging by comments in the learner surveys and focus groups. They felt that they would learn more English from native speakers. Understanding the vernacular and correct pronunciation are important issues for many students and some questioned whether they are being served well by teachers whose command of English may be less than ideal.
LINC teachers are very well educated (Figure A-16). Almost all – 95% – had at least one university degree. A third had two or more degrees.
Figure A-16: Educational qualifications
Source: Teachers survey
Text version: Educational qualifications
There was no evidence of lower standards for teachers in any type of organization, since there were no substantial differences in educational qualifications of instructors across type of provider. Neither were there significant differences across regions.
Conditions of employment
A long-standing issue in the field is the temporary or contractual nature of the teaching positions. Because the number of newcomers signing up for LINC is never certain and because of the short-term CIC contracts with LINC SPOs , many SPOs are unwilling to hire teachers on a permanent basis. The teacher survey results confirm that a minority of LINC teachers were permanent employees (39%); 52% were on contract, which generally lasted for the school year; and 9% were casual employees.
About 60% of LINC instructors were full-time employees (defined as teaching at least 25 hours per week). They taught LINC for an average of 21.4 hours per week. Including the 10% of teachers who also teach non-LINC ESL courses, the mean total weekly hours of instruction was 23.4. On average, teachers employed by school boards taught the most hours (26.4), followed by community agency instructors (21.9) and college instructors (17.7)Footnote 60. There was no significant difference by region.
Figure A-17: Weekly hours of LINC instruction
Suggestions for improvements
Teachers were asked to make one recommendation to improve LINC. About 85% made a recommendation. Nothing predominated. Better resources/learning materials/facilities and standardized exit tests were mentioned most often.
Asked directly about the importance of an exit test, teachers replied that having a formal exit test is important: the mean was 2.1 on the five-point scale.
|Not at all important|
Strengths and weaknesses of LINC
Strengths and weaknesses of LINC were explored during interviews with CIC national and regional representatives and in the teachers survey.
The main strengths, listed in order of frequency mentioned, according to key informants:
- Flexibility LINC has a variety of modes of delivery and hours of delivery; because its funded through SPOs it can focus on what the community needs most (e.g., classes for women or certain ethnic groups or certain professions); it can be delivered by colleges, schools, community centres or private educators; curriculum is not standard and can be tailored to suit the needs of local immigrants; it is continually evolving to meet the needs of the newest newcomers to the country. “It has the flexibility to adapt to local circumstances but its principles and foundations ensure consistency across the county.” (6 informants)
- Accessibility LINC is free, it provides instruction by internet and mail and volunteer tutoring programs in the homes of clients who cannot attend regular classroom training, and it provides transportation assistance and child minding to help immigrants who otherwise would have difficulty getting access to programming. (6 informants)
- Quality LINC Curriculum Guidelines give the instructor ideas on how to proceed and themes on what to cover at various levels and help to ensure greater quality and standardization; it is delivered by certified teachers for even quality (5 informants)
- Partnerships with SPOs Experience and committed partners that are dedicated to helping newcomers and have an understanding of the big picture outside of language training that immigrants face during integration. (3 informants)
- National program Federal government involvement helps ensure even quality and access across Canada and provides the program with more legitimacy (3 informants)
- Research and resource development Top quality materials and tools have been developed; training for assessors, professional development available for child minders, assessors and teachers. (2 informants)
The strength mentioned most often by LINC teachers was the top-notch curriculum guidelines (21%). Other strengths cited by teachers included flexibility (18%); its dual focus on language and culture (18%); its generous funding (17%); and the help it gives newcomers to integrate (15%).
The main weaknesses, listed in order of frequency mentioned, according to key informants:
- No progress and exit tests One design flaw is the lack of progress and exit tests. A cohesive exit test might make students more serious about staying in the program because they’ll have milestones to meet and proof of accomplishment. (5 informants)
- No standard curriculum Having curriculum guidelines instead of a standard curriculum has drawbacks and benefits. The drawbacks are the lack of consistency across Canada in the way in which LINC is taught and it makes it much harder to create content and exit tests; the benefit is that it allows the flexibility to meet the varied needs of immigrants and the community context in which the immigrants are learning. Perhaps there could be a standardized curriculum that leaves room for regional modifications. (4 informants)
- Confusion around CLB levels and LINC levels Whereas CLB levels are used for assessment, LINC levels are used for placement and people often get confused; LINC usually clusters classes around benchmarks rather than around skills or specific learning needs (3 informants)
- Lack of access for newcomers in rural areas (3 informants)
- No clear milestones The program does not have clear objectives for newcomers so it cannot maximize the benefits for them: too many discontinue before moving up. Milestones would improve clarity for learners and could motivate them to complete more levels. (2 informants)
- Lack of development of CLIC Assessment and level appropriate curriculum is needed to parallel LINC (2 informants)
- Considerable administrative burden for SPOs and CIC (2 informants)
Other weaknesses mentioned by one informant each: low take up levels and retention levels; availability of higher level LINC varies from region to region; lack of content test; no income support; limited professional development for instructors; lack of emphasis on workplace training; anticipated shortage of language instructors due to retirements; length of time many newcomers are spending at one LINC level; lack of skill-centered classes such as pronunciation; continuous intake; and uneven quality among SPOs (CIC has increased the number of service providers and expanded the capacity of others, but has done little yet to ensure the quality is high).
For teachers no single issue predominated, suggesting no glaring weaknesses in the eyes of teachers. Heading the list was lack of up-to-date resources (18%). For example: “Not enough funds to buy materials.” “Lack of a basic resource in the form of a book in the hands of a student.” “The material is out of date and does not take in all of Canada, only specific regions.”
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