Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program

Key findings

Program relevance and design

  • The LINC program is closely aligned with CIC priorities, namely the departmental Strategic Outcome of “successful integration of newcomers into society and promotion of Canadian citizenship”.
  • 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.
    • Language constitutes the most serious barrier newcomers face to furthering their education or training and is 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.
  • LINC training is high quality and designed to meet the needs of students.
    • LINC instructors are experienced: almost all teachers have ESL certification, formal ESL qualifications or have taken at least one professional development course.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Program management and delivery

  • Program guidelines and the various modes of LINC delivery allow SPOs to create a flexible program that meets learner needs.
  • SPOs have adequate tools/information to support and improve the service delivery, as about 71% of SPO administrators surveyed agreed with this.
  • Around 80% of SPOs offer child care and transportation assistance for LINC students, though not in every location.
  • 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.

Program impacts

  • On average, LINC students had completed one LINC level. Sixty percent had passed at least one LINC level; 26% had completed more than one level.
  • 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 level) 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 attributable to LINC rise markedly.
  • 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.
    • Almost 80% teach Canadian civics.
    • 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.


  • 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 actual cost of delivering the program and required an investment to improve service delivery.
    • Combined, child minding and transportation expenses have risen from approximately 2% in 1998-99 to 18% of total LINC expenditures in 2008-09.
  • 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.


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