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

4. Program management and delivery

4.1. Communication and coordination

Key finding:

  • Communications within CIC, and with program stakeholders is working well.

Communications within CIC

OMC has an effective relationship with the Regional Program Advisors (RPAs) in each region from the perspective of OMC and of every RPA interviewed for the evaluation. RPAs liaise regularly with the OMC lead to share information and to seek advice on programming issues in the field. In turn, NHQ asks for input from each Region on new policy and initiatives. The Regions provide formal reporting twice a year on regional work plan activities, a monthly work in progress report (and in Ontario a quarterly Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement (COIA) report). The Regional Directors General are also in regular communication with NHQ. More regular discussions between OMC and the regions was cited as a potential improvement from both perspectives.

The National Language Training Working Group was lauded by three interviewees as an excellent mechanism to communicate with LINC officials from across Canada. Consisting of middle and lower-level managers from policy and operations at NHQ and representatives from each regional office, the group explores operational realities, challenges, and shares best practices. It was noted that they meet less often than many would like but do hold periodic conference calls with stakeholders.

Communications with NGOs and provinces

Each year there is a Settlement Conference which involves service providers, as well as colleagues from NHQ. This was considered valuable by most informants. In addition, a LINC Administrators’ Conference is held annually, bringing together SPOs and CIC Regional LINC Managers.

Communications between federal and provincial officials are important to ensure LINC and ESL programs are coordinated to the extent possible. In Ontario, for example, under COIA, regional CIC officials work in collaboration with their provincial counterparts to develop a more coordinated approach and address gaps in services, with several program delivery improvement initiatives being developed or underway.

Two regional examples of coordination are in Alberta and the Atlantic region. In Alberta, federal staff work and consult with their provincial colleagues to ensure delivery of programs that are complementary.

In the Atlantic region the federal and provincial governments work together in determining where program funding is being placed in order to avoid overlap/duplication. Key informants felt both levels of government work well together and communicate regularly. For example, in Nova Scotia there is a committee that meets monthly on the LINC program which includes a local CIC officer, a representative from the province, an assessor and representatives from the SPO community.

4.2. Modes of deliveryFootnote 30

Key finding:

  • Program guidelines and the various modes of LINC delivery allow SPOs to create a flexible program that meets learner needs.

LINC is almost entirely 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. As of May, 2009, there were approximately 950 Home Study students, about 3% of all LINC learners in Canada.

The SPO administrator survey explored innovations that SPOs are using. These are listed in Figure 4-1 . A clear conclusion is that no single variation of the standard classroom mode of delivery is common. About 13% of providers offer classes aimed at specific target groups such as women, youth and seniors. Another 12% offer computer assisted learning in class or in labs. Classes focusing on specific skill areas such as writing and pronunciation were mentioned by 6% of SPOs. Another 5% offer tutoring: e.g., one on one tutoring in the student's home, and after-school tutoring groups for students who require extra support through the use of volunteers. Four percent of SPOs feature itinerant teachers who travel to the students’ homes to provide LINC instruction. In the English Language Tutoring for the Ottawa Community (ELTOC), volunteer tutors visit learners in the learner’s home. Alberta and Newfoundland also have rural itinerant teachers. Only one SPO offered English in the workplace, but two others taught classes that chiefly on language in the workplace. LINC in the workplace is being piloted in Ontario.

Figure 4-1: Innovative models of delivery

Bar Chart: Programs aimed at specific target group, 13.0%; Computer assisted learning, 12.2%; Specialized classes - writing, pronunciation, 5.8%; Tutoring, 5.0%; Itinerant teacher, 3.6%; Invite speakers from community, 3.6%; Conversation circle, 2.9%; Assistants in class, 2.9%; Hours planned around client needs, 2.9%; Field trips, 2.9%; Discrete skill classes, 2.9%; Family learning program, 2.2%; Summer Program, 2.2%; Workshops on topics relevant to newcomers, 2.2%; Specialized topics, 2.2%; Students integrated in other classes at institution, 2.2%; Workplace English, 1.4%; Web-based learning, 1.4%; Work on special projects, 1.4%; Other, 3.6%

N=139

Source: Administrators survey

Additional regional program differences

The primary regional differences in modes of delivery have already been stated: different LINC levels and different modes of delivery are available. There are other differences as well:

  • 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 OntarioFootnote 31. In addition, literacy classes are available for newcomers who are assessed at pre-benchmark levels on the CLBA.
  • There are no limits on the length of time an eligible client can remain in the LINC program, except in the case of Alberta, where collaboration between CIC and Alberta Employment and Immigration allows students to bridge from LINC to training funded by the Province.
  • On the delivery assistance side Northern Alberta features Centralized Delivery Assistance by the CLB/LINC Projects Office. They fund/develop all the research, professional development (PD) opportunities, conferences, advisory committees etc. Most special projects are planned with the community.
  • According to key informants, Ontario designates more of its LINC budget to research and to the production of resources than do other regions. It is also more likely to test innovations in deliveryFootnote 32.
  • The Yukon faces unique challenges because of the small immigrant population (60-70 per year), the small number of SPOs, and limited opportunity for instructor training. There are no distance education programs and funds for child minding and travel are very limited.

4.3. Outreach

No co-ordinated campaign to promote LINC has ever been undertaken. CIC has provided high quality brochures and posters on LINC in the main languages of newcomers. Promotion of LINC is the responsibility of SPOs, who may apply for funding to market their LINC programs, subject to maximums.

LINC agencies use various means of promotion to attract students to their classes. Nearly two-thirds make use of LINC pamphlets and posters. About half advertise in community – usually ethnic – newspapers. Figure 4-2 lists the other marketing tools used.

Nearly two-thirds of LINC administrators surveyed said that word of mouth – generally from current and former students – is the most effective means of promoting their program. SPOs attract future students by providing good service to current ones. Other marketing techniques considered effective included LINC pamphlets and posters (15% of administrators mentioned these), assessment centres (12%), community newspapers (11%), networking with other agencies (9%), website (7%) and signage (7%).

Figure 4-2: Proportion of SPOs using various marketing and outreach techniques

Bar Chart: Brochures, posters, 65%; Community newspapers, 48%; Network with other agencies, 30%; Website, 28%; Word of mouth, 22%; Community events, 23%; Assessment centre contact, 17%; Presentations, 15%; Radio/TV, 13%; Settlement agency contact, 13%; Course catalogue, 9%; Signage, 8%; Outreach worker on staff, 6%; Within agency promotion, 4%; Bus ads, 4%; Newsletter, 4%; Other, 4%

N=139

Source: Administrators survey

Data from the student survey confirm word of mouth is the most important means of learning about LINC (Figure 4-3). This differed significantly by CIC regionFootnote 33:

  • Ontario - with a large concentration of newcomers in the GTA, friends and relatives accounted for 60%; assessment centres (20%) and settlement agencies (10%) were secondary
  • Prairies-Northern Territories - most learners found out about the class from an assessment centre (43%) or a settlement agency (27%)
  • Atlantic - word of mouth was the most prevalent single source (39%), but assessment centres (29%) and settlement agencies (29%) were also common sources

Figure 4-3: How students learned about the class

Assessment centre, 26%; Brochure, 2%; Settlement/social services agency, 15%; School board or college, 2%; Word of mouth, 51%; Internet, 3%; Other, 1%

N=623

Source: Learners survey

Only 7% of students found out about LINC before coming to Canada.

4.4. Program take-up

Key finding:

  • 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.

The perception about the program is that the uptake rate for LINC is low. Some key informants within CIC felt that more newcomers should be taking advantage of LINC. As noted earlier there is a need for language acquisition for newcomers: approximately 21% of newcomers reported that they could not converse in one of Canada’s official languages (children under the age of 15 and provinces not offering LINC were removed from the data for this calculation), and in a different study, the IALSS found that two-thirds of immigrants to Canada were below Level 3 prose literacy.

A recent pan-Canadian study found that there are around 257,000

Footnote 34

immigrants in English or French publicly funded language training, with 217,000 in English courses and 40,000 in French courses throughout Canada. Of this, approximately 50,000 - 55,000 are annually enrolled in LINC across the country and roughly 200,000 are enrolled in provincial programs. With the availability of federal and provincial language training, it is possible that some learners are registered in multiple courses. This is especially likely in Ontario, where learners may be enrolled in both a part time LINC program, as well as a part time provincially sponsored course, (both of which could be delivered by the same provider). The survey of the comparison group

Footnote 35

(newcomers who had been assessed but had not taken LINC) found that 90% would like to take a class to improve their English and in fact 46% had taken an ESL class at some point since immigrating.

When discussing program take-up, it is also important to consider the reasons and barriers for not enrolling in the LINC program. LINC administrators were asked what insights they have on why the proportion taking LINC is not higher. The reasons include:

  • Need to work (to support themselves/family) (66%)
  • Lack of information on LINC (33%)
  • Family obligations (31%)
  • Belief that their English suffices (14%)
  • Unsuitable class schedules (11%)

CIC informants gave a similar list of responses. And comparison group responses were also similar: the reasons cited most often for not enrolling in LINC were the need to work (54%), they had young children to care for (21%), and felt they did not need more English training (21%).

LINC program administrators identified the following ideas for increasing the proportion of newcomers who take LINC:

  • More promotion of the program (34%) This included providing information packages before and upon immigration to Canada; better advertising at ports of entry; promotion by intake and settlement workers and CLB assessors during language counseling; a national advertising campaign; a national branded LINC with a clear logo; translation of marketing materials into more languages.
  • More flexible models/hours (23%) Including providing part-time instruction or evening classes; developing different formats to deliver classes in the community (e.g., libraries, community centres, shopping malls); diversifying the means of delivering LINC (online and correspondence); and offering mix modality - LINC in-class and home study.
  • Provide a stipend (19%)

It should be noted, however, that the program has no way to calculate a take-up rate due to the various language training options available to newcomers and the voluntary nature of language instruction.

Capacity

Operational and capacity impacts were assessed as part of the uptake issue through interviews with regional CIC officials. Atlantic region stated that some SPOs might not be able to handle an increased demand for services, the main challenges being a limited amount of physical space and limited availability of language instructors.

Ontario region believed that CIC and SPOs have the capacity to provide services to more clients, though some SPOs might not have the required childminding spaces. Informants felt that an increase in uptake would not necessarily have a positive or negative impact on quality as long as classes do not become overcrowded or poorly managed.

In the West the feeling was that current providers could probably expand, but the problem would be lack of new qualified SPOs. Also, it was felt that staffing at local CICs has not kept pace with expanded funding so managing new SPOs could be a challenge.

Yukon region said that if there were an increase in enrolment the SPOs would be able to serve the increased numbers.

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