Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program
4.0 Conclusions, Recommendations and Management Response
Summary and Conclusions
There is a clear rationale and continuing need for language training in English and French for newcomers to Canada. Both existing research and the views of CIC representatives, LINC service providers, and clients and graduates of the program strongly confirm the necessity of adequate language skills for newcomers to successfully settle, adapt and integrate socially/culturally and economically in Canada. While most newcomers are apparently somewhat prepared for settlement in Canada prior to their arrival (e.g., through information about Canada and some language instruction in their home country), they clearly need further assistance in learning how to communicate effectively in Canada, so that they can adapt to Canadian society and gain employment in this country.
Lending further support to the continuing relevance of the program, the services provided by LINC are regarded as highly consistent with current federal government priorities. For example, language training for newcomers is compatible with the emphasis of the current government on language skills and skill development generally, and with its focus on the economic viability of cities (where most immigrants settle). The program is also compatible with an objective of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to promote the integration of permanent residents into Canada. Moreover, LINC is viewed as a unique program, complementing rather than duplicating other CIC settlement programs and, to a lesser extent, other provincial/territorial and municipal settlement programs.
For the most part, the LINC program priorities and criteria are appropriate, though there is a perceived need for language training to higher levels (to help newcomers learn occupation-specific terms and gain employment) and for more emphasis on French language training (to assist newcomers who settle in bilingual regions/communities). These issues are discussed in more detail in the next section.
Overall, the program objectives, as well as the roles and responsibilities of CIC offices at the national, regional and local levels and of service provider organizations (SPOs), are clearly understood. There are, however, some issues that may require clarification for service providers. In particular, a substantial proportion of SPOs indicate that they understand the role of CIC local offices (34 percent) and the LINC funding criteria (25 percent) only to some extent. Some SPOs perceive that the funding criteria are inconsistent for different service providers and from one year to the next. In addition, although most CIC officials and SPOs believe that the application process is effective in selecting suitable service providers to deliver LINC, there are some concerns that it is too difficult for “new players” to become involved and that the quality of services and teaching may not be consistent for all service providers. Clients also observe that the quality of the teachers is variable.
Promotional materials on LINC (e.g., CIC and SPO brochures, information packages given to newcomers upon their arrival at airports, CIC and SPO websites) appear to be reasonably effective, though many newcomers first hear about the program by “word-of-mouth” from family and friends. As CIC key informants note, awareness of the program is not a problem; rather, high demand for language training is more of an issue. Still, SPOs feel that some improvements could be made to the promotion of the program, for example, by increasing promotion at targeted locations such as points of entry, schools and workplaces; making greater use of newspaper and television ads; providing key materials in languages other than English and French; and making the materials more accessible for newcomers with poor literacy skills (e.g., by using fewer words and more symbols).
The language assessment tools available to LINC assessors are regarded as appropriate, and service providers rate the Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment (CLBA) as the most effective in terms of its ease of use and accuracy in assessing a client’s level of language ability. Some issues raised with respect to assessment tools include: CIC representatives have divergent opinions on whether the CLBA or Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement Test (CLBPT) is more effective; some CIC representatives feel that the assessments with the évaluation Cours de Langue pour les Immigrants au Canada (CLIC) are not as formalized as with the CLBPT; and some clients feel that the assessments should place more emphasis on identifying learners’ strengths and weaknesses in listening and speaking, as well as reading and writing. On a related matter, CIC and SPO key informants suggest that a standardized exit test is needed in order to accurately assess clients’ degree of language acquisition and to provide a recognized, credible measure of language ability for LINC graduates.
There are mixed opinions on the client needs assessments. While some CIC representatives feel the assessments are adequate, others believe that they are not comprehensive enough and still others could not comment. Many clients and graduates in the focus groups could not recall having received a needs assessment and, among those who could, it appears to have been a very brief discussion of their location, class time preferences and child-care needs. These results suggest that the role of the needs assessment process may need to be clarified or better explained to clients.
Results from the key informant interviews, client focus groups and SPO survey indicate that clients are generally being placed in appropriate organizations for training at the appropriate language level and in a reasonably timely fashion. The main timeliness issue relates to the waiting lists some clients need to be placed on for training — in particular, for training close to their home and/or at an organization that offers child-care services. Some clients can wait up to six months for their language training (in particular, for suitable child care).
In addition, for almost half of the SPOs in the survey (44 percent), CIC’s notification of the status (success or failure) of their application for LINC funding is only somewhat timely, and 13 percent rate this as not timely.
The evaluation findings indicate that the major barriers to client participation in language training are being successfully addressed. The program offers flexible hours and different options for training (e.g., full time, part time, distance learning). In the case of French language instruction through CLIC, however, clients complain that training is not available with the same frequency and flexibility as it is in English. The program also offers assistance with child minding and transportation. In the focus groups, clients generally express satisfaction with and appreciation for the child care provided at SPOs, though there are some limitations (e.g., child-care services only provided during the day or for children of certain ages). Service providers are unaware of or have mixed opinions about the adequacy of the assistance available for persons with disabilities, however. There may be a need to clarify this assistance so all SPOs understand precisely what is available and for whom.
On balance, the evaluation findings indicate that the curriculum, content and teaching in LINC are of high quality, relevant and useful for newcomers to Canada. They are able to improve their language skills and learn basic details about life in Canada through the curriculum, guest speakers, field trips and ongoing assistance/guidance from the teachers. In addition, most SPOs (70 percent) believe that research sponsored under the program has contributed at least somewhat to improvements in program delivery and services, though one-quarter of service providers could not comment on this issue.
The key weaknesses noted about the LINC training are as follows:
- there is a need for language training to higher levels (beyond the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 7), in order to help newcomers learn occupation-specific terms to gain employment;
- for some newcomers the class sizes are too large, so they do not receive enough attention from the teacher or enough time to practice listening and speaking;
- in the view of some clients, the quality of the teachers varies and this has a direct impact on the quality of their language instruction; and
- there is insufficient emphasis given to French language training (CLIC), which is needed to assist newcomers who settle in bilingual regions/communities.
There are mixed opinions on the balance achieved in the LINC program in regional consistency versus flexibility. Some CIC key informants believe that CIC headquarters provides consistent policy direction, while the regions have plenty of flexibility in program delivery to accommodate regional priorities and changing needs. In fact, some respondents seem to think that there is too much flexibility because not all regions train newcomers up to CLB level 7. On the other hand, some CIC representatives feel that the program is flexible in theory but that the funding formula (which assumes the traditional classroom model) is not flexible enough in practice. It is argued that the program should offer more support in smaller communities and for delivery methods such as distance learning in less populated areas.
The financial controls in place to monitor program delivery appear to be adequate (e.g., requirements specified in the Contribution Accountability Framework, regular audits, visits to SPOs by CIC field officers). In addition, information on best practices and ways in which LINC can be improved are shared among CIC representatives and SPOs in newsletters and at meetings/conferences. With respect to program evaluation, the present study is the first national evaluation of LINC (though an evaluation in Ontario region was previously conducted). Efforts have been made to improve ongoing performance monitoring, but there are still weaknesses in this respect. The Immigration Contribution Accountability Measurement System (iCAMS), through which SPOs are providing data on the number of clients served and services delivered, will be useful, although it is not yet fully operational (in the October–December 2003 data entry report, only 74 percent of SPOs had entered data). Also, with the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada, it is possible to track whether immigrants have or have not had language training in Canada, but it is not possible to determine if immigrants received their language training through LINC, since the survey does not explicitly address this issue.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
Although issues related to the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of LINC were not examined in detail in this evaluation, the available qualitative evidence does suggest that the program delivery model is reasonably effective and efficient. Some CIC representatives note, for example, that it is necessary for the federal government to seek the assistance of service providers because they have the required expertise in language training and can offer a variety of delivery approaches and locations to accommodate the needs of newcomers in different parts of the country. Some CIC interviewees also note that the delivery of LINC through the SPOs is more cost-effective than direct delivery of these services by the federal government would be. In the absence of a rigorous cost-effectiveness analysis, however, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions as to the validity of this assertion.
Nevertheless, some CIC key informants believe that the efficiency of program delivery could be improved. Key suggestions include establishing a national language training institution with a presence in every region, as well as a standardized national curriculum; providing more training for newcomers overseas before their arrival in Canada; making more and better use of cost-effective methods such as self-study by DVD and distance learning; organizing better tailored classes with all students at the same level of language ability; and using volunteers to tutor and practice conversation with smaller groups of students.
In the view of some CIC key informants, long waiting lists for language training are due in part to inadequate funding levels that have not kept pace with rising costs. Moreover, additional funding would probably be required if some of the suggested program improvements were to be implemented (e.g., offering more language training to higher levels, reducing the size of LINC classes).
Overall, the evaluation findings indicate that clients are very satisfied with and appreciative of the services provided by LINC and they feel that the program is, for the most part, meeting their needs. As already noted, the major issue not being fully addressed is newcomers’ perceived need for higher-level language training, which they believe is necessary for them to gain employment in Canada. In addition, the findings indicate that the program has successfully contributed to its intended immediate outcomes: improving newcomers’ language abilities, their knowledge of Canada and Canadian civics, and their skills for interacting in a culturally diverse environment. The fact that the classes of LINC students are multicultural is thought to greatly facilitate this latter outcome.
SPOs perceive that certain types of newcomers have more success in improving their language abilities through the program than others. In particular, newcomers who had completed a college or university education and who had middle and high incomes in their home country, those between the ages of 20 and 54, and those who came from countries (e.g., in Europe) where the language is similar to English or French or who speak a mother tongue similar to English or French are thought to have the most success in LINC.
Turning to the intermediate outcomes, the findings indicate that the program has greatly assisted newcomers in becoming more confident in independently accessing community resources, though some feel the need for more assistance in accessing employment-related programs/services and in communicating effectively with medical doctors. Also, through the basic language skills they have acquired through LINC, newcomers feel that the program has assisted them somewhat in pursuing their personal goals such as further education, employment and starting their own business. Some of the graduates consulted in focus groups are in fact enrolled in educational programs or employed.
With respect to the longer-term outcomes, LINC clients and graduates do appear to be making some contributions to Canadian institutions and society, for instance, through volunteer work (e.g., at schools, hospitals, churches, public libraries). In addition, many do plan to become Canadian citizens, although it will take some time before they identify with Canadian culture and “feel” like Canadians. There are also perceived to be some modest impacts on the Canadian public. Over three-quarters of SPOs indicate that LINC has contributed to at least some extent in increasing sensitivity to and appreciation of cultural diversity in Canada, and in increasing public awareness of the benefits of immigration. Similarly, most program clients and graduates in the focus groups perceive Canadian society to be generally receptive to people from different cultures, although they note that finding suitable employment in Canada will be very difficult.
Recommendations and Management Response
On the basis of the LINC evaluation findings, the following recommendations are made to Citizenship and Immigration Canada:
1. Provide SPOs with more timely notification of the status of their application for LINC funding.
Of a number of aspects of program delivery assessed, SPOs rate this element as the least timely. It would, therefore, be advisable for CIC to provide more timely notification to SPOs of the decision on whether or not they will be receiving LINC funding. Organizations need to know the status of their funding in order to plan their activities, staffing, etc., properly. Related to this, CIC should continue to consider multi-year funding arrangements for trusted service providers.
The Department agrees with the principle of this recommendation. CIC is committed to reviewing current timeframes and taking the measures necessary to ensure that SPOs are advised of the status of their application for LINC funding in reasonable time prior to commencement of planned activities. In consultation with the regions, the Department will be developing national standards, which will be included in the operational guidelines used by departmental officers (Settlement Manual).
It should be noted that the Department can now enter into multi-year agreements, a factor which may minimize such timeframes. While this policy may be used in the negotiation of 2005–2006 agreements, National Headquarters and Regional Offices are not obliged to sign multi-year agreements. Clear guidelines on the use of this option are included in the Settlement Manual.
Implementation of national standards on timeliness and SPO’s notification of status of their proposals for funding will have to take into account regional configuration (i.e., approval processes).
CIC has decided to move toward multi-year funding for a number of reasons. The 2001 Report of the Auditor General and the needs identified by the settlement services sector lead CIC to develop this option. CIC also acknowledges that moving towards multi-year funding agreements may give some service providers greater stability and a better ability to plan over the longer term. It may also free-up the time spent on the preparation and revision of proposals by settlement officers and service provider organizations. This time could then be devoted to other priorities such as program management and client service improvement.
Regional offices will make decisions on what portion of their budget to allocate to multi-year funding. For some service providers, it may be appropriate to remain with one-year agreements, to ensure maximum flexibility in responding to the changing needs of clients, evolving issues and unpredictable migration patterns.
A draft of the standards will be prepared by fall 2004, based on discussions with the National Language Training Working Group (NLTWG). In winter 2005, NLTWG members will be tasked with consulting colleagues, managers and directors of their respective region to seek input on the draft. By spring 2005, a fully developed and approved standards will be shared with the various CIC offices and included in the Settlement Manual.
2. Inform SPOs about program details that they do not fully understand.
Over one-third of SPOs indicate that they only understand the roles and responsibilities of CIC local offices to some extent and that they cannot comment on the adequacy of program assistance available for persons with disabilities. In addition, approximately 30 percent of service providers do not have a complete understanding of the program funding criteria. These results suggest that there is a need to provide clarification to SPOs on these basic program details. With a full understanding of the program and the support available from CIC, service providers may be able to improve their delivery of LINC and service to newcomers.
The Department agrees to take action on this recommendation. Although this recommendation addresses several issues (roles and responsibilities of various CIC offices, funding requirements, assistance available for persons with disabilities), they can be all dealt with by improving communication with SPOs. As part of these improvements, the Department is committed to reviewing and updating existing publications such as the LINC Handbook for Service Provider Organizations and the LINC Guide for Applicants. CIC will also ensure that SPOs are notified when the updated information is available or posted on various websites such as www.settlement.org and www.integration-net.cic.gc.ca. In addition, the Department will develop existing communications products to enhance communications capacity with external stakeholders.
The Department recognizes that communication is key to the success of its programs.
It is of concern that some SPOs do not understand the funding criteria or the other features of LINC very well, even after they have signed their contribution agreements. This expressed lack of understanding may relate to the issue of who was interviewed, for example executive directors versus program coordinators or staff, and might also point to a lack of internal communication within an SPO.
The Department will use appropriate communication tools to better inform SPOs of their roles and responsibilities. CIC officers should remind the SPOs of the importance of understanding the contribution agreement and stress their availability to respond to any questions SPOs may have.
Indicated activities will be undertaken during winter and spring 2005, led by National Headquarters working with the National Language Training Working Group (NLTWG). With regard to the review and update of existing publications, a critical path will be developed in consultation with Integration Promotion division and Communications Branch, once the NLTWG has defined the scope of such a review and update exercise.
3. Review and clarify the purpose of the client needs assessment.
Given that some CIC key informants feel that the client needs assessments are not sufficiently comprehensive and that many clients/graduates cannot even recall this process or note that it was very brief, it may be helpful to clarify the purpose of the needs assessments and/or to explain the process better to clients. There may be room to improve the placement of clients at suitable SPOs: while 49 percent of service providers believe that newcomers are appropriately placed to a great extent, 38 percent say only to some extent. In addition, as suggested in the key informant interviews, it may be useful for purposes of performance monitoring to ask clients about their expectations for the program at this initial assessment and then follow up with them when they leave LINC, to assess the extent to which their expectations were met.
The Department agrees with this recommendation. CIC is committed to reviewing and clarifying the objective of the client needs assessment and to clarifying the role of the assessment centres and assessors in assessing these needs. The Department is currently developing new guidelines to clarify procedures for carrying out such assessments and for informing clients of their results and language training options. This measure should ensure that placements are better suited to clients’ needs while managing clients’ expectations in a more realistic manner.
CIC will also explore the feasibility of developing and implementing tools that would allow clients to assess their needs earlier in the immigration process, prior to, or immediately following their arrival. The Department is receptive to exploring innovative initiatives implemented across the country and abroad.
The Department will continue to gather relevant assessment-related information and explore alternative methods to measuring success. These will be shared with SPOs through existing communication channels.
Even when proper needs assessments and appropriate referrals are made by SPOs, clients may still have the final choice of service providers. This choice might not always guarantee that the placement will reflect the results of the needs assessment. Such situations might add to the complexity of managing clients’ expectations.
The Department is gathering useful information and qualitative measures on clients’ outcomes through program assessments and research studies. The introduction of standardized exit tests is often seen as an appropriate method to assess such outcomes, but would involve financial, technical and operational considerations. (See response to Recommendation 7.)
Discussions have taken place and an action plan to address these issues will be developed in consultation with the National Language Training Working Group by March 2005. The action plan will reflect the involvement, when necessary, of different stakeholders as some of these issues may involve consultation or have operational implications.
4. Assess the feasibility of providing language training to levels higher than Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 7.
A common suggestion in this evaluation — made by CIC representatives, LINC clients and graduates, and SPOs — is to provide more language training to higher levels, so that newcomers can develop the skills they feel they need to gain employment in Canada. A related suggestion is to provide higher-level, specialized language training for newcomers hoping to find work in particular occupations/professions. In order to clearly identify the cost implications of these types of enhancements, it would be worthwhile to assess the financial feasibility of offering this additional language training — either through LINC or some other program vehicle.
The objective of the LINC program is to offer basic courses in one of Canada’s official languages to facilitate the social, cultural, economic and political integration into Canada. LINC is designed to be a generic language training program that provides an overall orientation to the Canadian way of life, regardless of the labour market intentions of newcomers. Nevertheless, the program is flexible enough to meet clients’ needs for language training which is more focused on specific topics such as employment.
To address the increasing demand for higher levels of language training for newcomers who are hoping to find employment requiring language skills beyond Canadian Language Benchmarks level 6/7, the Department has gone beyond what is suggested in this recommendation with the implementation of the Enhanced Language Training (ELT) initiative, in January 2004.
This new initiative is delivered under the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP), since it includes a mentoring and job placement component, two elements that are beyond the mandate of LINC. The ELT initiative also represents a new investment of federal funds but does not supplement LINC programming.
ELT projects include development and delivery activities that provide adult immigrants with language training at Canadian Language Benchmark levels 7 to 10, job-specific language training, language training at levels 1 to 10 in small urban centres, and bridge-to-work assistance, including mentoring, work placement and other assistance in accessing the labour market.
Clients are eligible for LINC training if they are assessed at, or lower than, the following benchmarks: benchmark 6 for reading and writing, and benchmark 7 for speaking and listening.
Current LINC programming attempts to meet language training needs in all regions, although some eligible immigrants are placed on waiting lists because of the lack of training space. CIC also recognizes that there are gaps in the service delivery across its different regions, since some regions may only offer courses up to CLB level 4/5. The ELT initiative could be used to mitigate these gaps for immigrants who are destined to the labour market.
The Department will make greater efforts to standardize the provision of services. The standardization of service provision across the country will involve discussion between NHQ and relevant regions, as it has financial and operational implications. As an option, the Department may explore the implementation of alternative delivery models (for example, distance learning, accelerated classes). The National Language Training Working Group members and other regional representatives would be involved in these discussions to share knowledge and best practices.
Funding for ELT is ongoing and the Department is assessing proposals that are received based on needs, priorities and funds available. Some provinces have signed (or are in the process of signing) an agreement with the Department to manage and distribute a part of the ELT funds.
5. Examine the feasibility of tailoring LINC classes, such that all learners are at or near the same level, and reducing the class sizes in areas where they are largest (e.g., classes with 20 or more students).
Similar to the above recommendation, these frequently suggested improvements would have cost implications for the program that should be clarified before any decisions to proceed or not are made. A less costly option would be to use volunteers to practice conversation with small groups of learners.
The Department agrees with the principle of this recommendation. CIC will explore the possibility of using trained monitors/tutors to assist teachers who must teach mixed levels or large groups. The use of language monitors/tutors is a viable alternative, given the potential benefits for immigrants:
- some programs already use volunteers to carry out this function; and
- with a focus on communication, clients have the opportunity to meet a variety of individuals and, as such, are exposed to diverse accents and cultures.
The Department will continue to pilot initiatives to explore alternative service delivery models (distance learning, accelerated classes, etc.).
The Department commits to working to strengthen communications with SPOs, advisory committees, researchers and representatives of provinces and territories. The goal is to maintain a constructive dialogue in order to share ideas and benefit from the best practices implemented for programs comparable to LINC.
Financial constraints may likely limit this type of initiative, and a more responsive program configuration may mean a necessary reduction in a program or service elsewhere. The Department will have to continue to seek additional funding for LINC, as its ability to respond to this recommendation is limited. Nevertheless, work can be done to improve and standardize the services and reach a consensus that satisfies the Department, the SPOs and the clients.
Operationally speaking, implementing measures responding to this recommendation are more likely to benefit immigrants attending classes at higher levels and settling in cities with several SPOs. In small centres, it might never be cost-effective due to the limited number of clients or SPOs. In fact, multi-level classes are often the norm. Reorganization in such a context would be difficult without additional funding.
The Department will endeavour, when possible, to further reducing the number of classes with more than one level. It must, however, ensure that the provision of services is not significantly affected, particularly in small urban centres.
The National Language Training Working Group will develop an action plan to define the scope and type of actions/activities to be undertaken (such as research studies, pilots, etc.). Preliminary discussion on the action plan will take place during fall 2004.
6. Strengthen the program’s focus on French language assessment and training.
Given the complaint of CLIC students that French language training is not offered with the same frequency and flexibility as English training, steps should be taken to give more priority to French training to facilitate the settlement of newcomers in bilingual regions. In addition, as suggested by key informants, the É-CLIC assessment tool may need to be re-examined to ensure that the French language assessments are as comprehensive as those in English.
The Department agrees with this recommendation. CIC recognizes the existence of these problems and is committed to focus on the French delivery of its program, in order to raise the current level of services.
The Department is currently reviewing its policy on the language of instruction and will provide clear guidelines to service provider organizations so that they can better assess client demands for French courses. The Department wishes to standardize the decision-making process and avoid situations where similar needs or circumstances allow for differing interpretations from one service provider to the other.
In support of the Strategic Framework to Foster Immigration to Francophone Minority Communities, the Department is working to improve the capacity and to strengthen the reception and settlement infrastructures of Francophone minority communities (including language training).
With regard to replacing the É-CLIC assessment tool, the Department is looking at alternative solutions, and a new placement test is being assessed.
Criticism received to date refers to the lack of flexibility (fewer choices of service delivery models than the English program) and to the changing frequency of courses.
The current Settlement Allocation Model does not account for the provision of language courses in both official languages to the same client in provinces such as New Brunswick and Ontario. Current funding levels also make this problematic.
It is important to put this recommendation in the context of CIC’s mandate as the evaluation report did not address this. The Department’s mandate is not to ensure that immigrants become bilingual, learning both official languages through its language courses. As specified in the LINC program Terms and Conditions, the objective of the program is “to provide language training in one of Canada’s official languages to adult immigrants in order to facilitate their social, cultural, economic and political integration into Canada so that they may become participating members of Canadian society as quickly as possible.” In other words, the Department gives immigrants the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge of either French or English, not both official languages.
However, the Department recognizes that some immigrants need to be competent in both official languages, either for settlement reasons or to adjust to a new host community. The need for training in both official languages, however, can be interpreted in ways that may sometimes differ from one region to another.
To address the need for language training in French, the Department may consider contracting seats through existing institutions, where demand is low.
During winter 2004 and spring 2005, NHQ, in consultation with the National Language Training Working Group (NLTWG), regions and other relevant stakeholders will review the language of instruction policy and draft revisions and guidelines. In spring/summer 2005, NHQ and NLTWG will consult the regions on the revised policy and guidelines. NHQ will incorporate comments into the policy and guidelines. In summer 2005, the approved policy and guidelines will be shared with CIC offices and stakeholders.
With regard to the replacement of the ÉCLIC assessment tool, a new placement tool is currently being assessed. A decision on the implementation of this new tool will be made in the fall 2004. An action plan will be developed based on the decision made and will lead to the implementation or the search of alternative solutions.
7. Develop and administer a standardized exit test of language ability.
CIC representatives and SPOs point to the need for an exit test to properly gauge the extent to which LINC learners are acquiring language skills in English or French. This instrument should be comparable with the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) assessment tools utilized so that clients’ degree of improvement can be measured. A standardized test score would serve as a crucial outcome measure of language acquisition, as part of a LINC performance measurement strategy. Moreover, requiring learners to attain a minimum score of language ability would enhance the credibility of the LINC certificate for graduates, providing them with a recognized, portable credential.
The Department agrees with the principle of this recommendation.
The Department is committed to performing an analysis of the feasibility and costs related to the implementation of exit tests. As such tests and alternative assessment methods already exist or are under development for English-as-a-second-language and French-as-a-second-language programs, the Department is also committed to analysing the success of these initiatives and building on its results and best practices.
The goals of the LINC program are to ensure that as many candidates as possible reach LINC level 5. Achieving this goal is difficult within the current funding level. Options to improve this may be explored as part of the Canadian Immigration Framework to be developed beginning in fall 2004, in partnership with provinces and territories.
The Department is considering the effectiveness of such a tool that could provide a sound basis for measuring clients’ language acquisition. Support for this potential standardized tool has been expressed by the Department, some provinces and settlement sector stakeholders.
The Department is currently not in a position to administer exit tests to all clients who complete a level, even to those who complete the highest levels of language training. In fact, the Department must be realistic and consider the operational, technical and financial implications (cost effectiveness) of such a project: test development, validation, assessor training, implementation, administration, etc. Currently, teachers already assess the progress of students in class. This practice can become part of a standardized exit process, with level outcomes data eventually recorded. This would allow for a more flexible response to curriculum that varies from region to region and even from class to class. At this point, there is no standardized national curriculum since teaching material is developed and delivered in response to newcomers’ stated needs.
With the introduction of the performance measurement system (Immigration Contribution Accountability system – iCAMS) for the Settlement programs, CIC is already moving towards results-based program management, with a greater capacity to demonstrate outcomes.
NHQ, in consultation with the National Language Training Working Group will define the scope and type of measures necessary to address this recommendation, considering regional program configuration. Preliminary discussion will take place during winter 2005.
8. Continue to encourage SPOs to enter their information for iCAMS.
In order to ensure the usefulness of iCAMS, it is recommended that CIC continue to encourage SPOs that are still not entering their data to begin doing so (e.g., this could be a formal requirement for continued funding). The present survey results indicate that most service providers fully understand their reporting requirements for iCAMS (87 percent) and how to enter information into the system (77 percent), so these do not appear to be major problems.
The Department agrees with this recommendation and has taken measures in this direction.
CIC is already requiring service providers to input data into iCAMS; it is an obligation under the contribution agreement. It should be noted, however, that when an alternative mechanism, such as an electronic interface, is in place, data entry is not required. As iCAMS is central to the Settlement programs accountability framework, data entry into iCAMS is also an evaluation criterion for service provider organizations that are seeking multi-year funding.
National Headquarters is producing quarterly data monitoring reports to ensure that data are inputted into iCAMS. That way, it is possible to identify when data entry is incomplete and take corrective actions.
Activities will be monitored by NHQ during 2004–2005, to assess overall effectiveness.
9. Strengthen LINC performance monitoring.
In general, there is a need to improve the performance monitoring for LINC. As noted above, the full implementation of iCAMS will provide useful data on program delivery and reach, and the incorporation of a standardized exit test of language acquisition would provide a needed measure of this immediate outcome. In administering the exit test, it may be possible to obtain contact information for a sample of learners and to then conduct a brief annual or biannual follow-up survey to monitor their longer-term outcomes related to adaptation and integration. It may also be worthwhile to consider adding some basic monitoring of the quality of language teaching (e.g., through the routine administration of a feedback questionnaire to learners), given concerns expressed in this evaluation about variation in teacher quality.
The Department accepts this recommendation and notes that most of its points have been addressed in other recommendations, with the exception of the point referring to the variation in quality of instruction. Readers should refer to:
- Response to recommendation 3 for the assessment of client needs and expectations;
- Response to recommendation 7 for exit tests; and
- Response to recommendation 8 for the implementation of iCAMS.
As teaching quality remains a key factor in the success of the LINC program, it is essential to further assess overall quality of instruction. The Department will be particularly sensitive to discrepancies between different types of service providers and the various regions.
Following an assessment of the concerns expressed regarding the quality of instruction, the Department will consider measures to correct the situation. This may potentially involve a policy discussion on the development of minimum standards for LINC instructors, respecting provincial jurisdiction.
Quality of instruction is only one issue. The Department also has to consider other factors such as clients’ progress. There are currently no official mechanisms in place (i.e. exit tests, see response to Recommendation 7) to assess this aspect of program delivery, although performance monitoring can be achieved through the measurement of progress rates, drop-out rates and other indicators.
Due to the complex nature of this particular issue, the National Language Training Working Group will have to discuss the overall direction and steps necessary to assess quality of instruction. Once this discussion has taken place, in winter 2005, an action plan will be developed.
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