Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program
6. Summary of findings
6.1. Program relevance and design
- The LINC program is closely aligned with CIC priorities.
- Strategic Outcome 3 of the CIC 2009-2010 Report on Plans and Priorities sets the “Successful integration of newcomers into society and promotion of Canadian citizenship” as a priority for the department.
- LINC is a key element of CIC’s integration programming, accounting for the largest part of settlement funding.
- There is a need for language acquisition for newcomers to Canada.
- In 2008, the majority (86%) of Canada’s permanent residents had a mother tongue other than English or French. Furthermore, 21% of Canada’s Permanent Residents felt they could converse in neither official language.
- Language constitutes the most serious barrier newcomers face to furthering their education or training and among the most serious barriers to finding employment.
- The federal government’s role in the delivery of language training for newcomers to Canada is appropriate.
- All but one key informant agreed that the federal government should be involved in official language training for newcomers.
- The reasoning most used was that the federal government is facilitating the entry of newcomers into the country and that makes it responsible to play a role in preparing them to live and work here. Also mentioned was the national perspective federal government brings to second language programming.
- LINC program objectives are clear according to all key informants.
- LINC training is high quality and designed to meet the needs of students.
- Almost all teachers have ESL certification and two-thirds have CLB training. In addition, approximately 90% have formal ESL qualifications.
- Most LINC teachers (97%) had taken at least one professional development course.
- The typical teacher had 6.6 years of experience teaching LINC and 9.0 years in the ESL field.
Instructor materials are relevant and they use a variety of teaching tools to help ensure the goals of students are met.
- Good quality curriculum guidelines exist for all levels of LINC
- The dropout rate for students was at least 22% but few left for reasons of dissatisfaction with LINC.
- Language assessments are effective and result in participants being placed in the appropriate program level.
- Ninety-four percent of LINC students said they were placed at the correct level, and 85% were comfortable with the pace of the class.
- Only 17% of LINC administrators said there are better assessment tools in existence than those available to LINC assessors, but many of these were unaware of any specific tool that was better.
- Teacher survey results showed that they only move 5% of LINC students to a different level in their first week or two in class, indicating that from the teachers’ perspective most assessments are accurate.
- Numerous support services are provided by a large majority of SPOs, but availability of child care assistance was cited as the main obstacle to attending LINC.
- Around 80% of SPOs offer child care and transportation assistance for LINC students, though not in every location.
- Most potential participants are able to gain access to LINC in a timely fashion.
- Waiting lists were not an issue in most areas of the country: PEI has a waiting list for classes and Calgary has a waiting list for assessments and classes.
- The mean wait between assessment and referral was 35 days for Ontario LINC clients assessed in 2009.
- Over 90% of LINC classes feature continuous intake, which comes with challenges for teachers, but also has a benefit: it makes classes more readily accessible for students.
6.2. Program management and delivery
- Program guidelines and the various modes of LINC delivery allow SPOs to create a flexible program that meets learner needs.
- The two basic modes of delivery are classroom training (about 95% of students) and Home Study through the internet and correspondence (about 4%). The other 1% is personal tutoring, itinerant teachers and pilot projects such as workplace LINC and mixed models of classroom and Home Study.
- Classes are offered in the morning (55%), afternoon (26%) and evening (19%). There are few weekend offerings – only 3% of classes surveyed met on a weekend.
- SPOs have adequate tools/information to support and improve the service delivery.
- About 71% of SPO administrators agreed with this. Those who felt that the tools were inadequate were asked what they needed. Most often mentioned was improved technology.
- There are regional differences in the way SPOs provide LINC service.
- Concerning modes of delivery, Home Study is available in Ontario, Saskatchewan, PEI, Newfoundland, and it is currently being piloted in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
- Itinerant instructors are used in Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Alberta. One-on-one tutoring programs are available in Ontario and Saskatchewan.
- LINC in the workplace is being piloted in Ontario.
- Alberta limits the number of hours a learner may take LINC.
- Otherwise service providers and CIC report consistent program management.
- Various methods were used to promote LINC.
- Nearly two-thirds of SPOs make use of LINC pamphlets and posters.
- About half advertise in community – usually ethnic – newspapers.
- Almost two-thirds of administrators said that word of mouth – generally from current and former students – is the most effective means of promoting their program.
- Only 7% of students found out about LINC before coming to Canada.
- The program has not calculated a take-up rate due to the various language training options available to newcomers and the voluntary nature of language instruction.
- Program data contained in iCAMS (and HARTs in Ontario) are largely administrative in nature and do not provide adequate information on client outcomes.
6.3. Program impact
- In an ideal environment, it might be possible to test the effectiveness of LINC against a control group who had not received language training. It would, however, be difficult to isolate the impact of LINC, on LINC learners, from other influences on their language acquisition. Similarly, for a control group, it is difficult to identify the impact of unobservable characteristics (e.g. motivation, diversity of social networks, etc.) on their language acquisition, outside of a LINC environment. In this study, in an effort to provide a more quantitative assessment, a small sample group (those assessed but not enrolled in LINC) was selected and a pre-test/post-test approach was used to compare gains scores. For the “control” sample under consideration in this evaluation:
- LINC had improved the language abilities of students in the areas of reading (by 0.88 benchmark) and writing (by 0.51 benchmark level) but not in listening and speaking beyond what they would have gained from living in Canada.
- But, by the time students reach 1000 hours the gains ascribable to LINC jump to 1.3 benchmarks for listening, 1.2 for reading and 1.7 for writing. (This assumes no unobservable traits of the groups are affecting the results.)
- On average, LINC students had completed 1.0 LINC level.
- Sixty percent had passed at least one LINC level; 26% had completed more than one level.
- Across all students (in the case studies) the mean number of hours to complete a LINC level was 347.4.
- LINC clients are settling well in Canada, but they are no further ahead than non-clients when it comes to certain initial settlement activities.
- Clients learn about many different aspects of living and working in Canada (English for daily life and settlement/integration Canadian civics).
- Over 90% of LINC classes teach English for daily life and settlement/integration.
- About two-thirds teach English for the workplace. Focus group participants felt better equipped to compete in the Canadian labour market.
- LINC is helping students to develop skills for interaction in a culturally diverse environment.
- The typical LINC class had 5.8 countries and 5.2 languages represented out of every 10 students.
- Though the approach to program delivery through third-party organizations is considered cost-effective by respondents, further analysis of other delivery models would be required in order to determine true cost-effectiveness of the program.
- More training via Home Study may be one means of improving efficiency.
- The cost per LINC student has risen substantially in recent years, while the number of students has remained stable.
- As expenditures rose from $94 million in 2004-05 to $172 million in 2008-09, the number of learners rose from about 52,000 to about 55,000. As a result, the cost per LINC student had risen from about $1800 to approximately $3150.
- Part of the reason for this is that LINC payments to SPOs had fallen behind the cost of delivering the service.
- Combined, child minding and transportation expenses have risen from approximately 2% in 1998-99 to 18% of total LINC expenditures in 2008-09.
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