Evaluation of the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program
Needs of Newcomers
Canada and Immigration (CIC) key informants observe that the needs of newcomers vary widely, and that approximately 20 percent of newcomers participate in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program. They note that newcomers include immigrants and refugees, who represent a wide group of people with varying needs for assistance:
- some are family sponsored and have some support in place;
- many refugees selected by Canada are not prepared for settlement in this country;
- some have special needs (e.g., health problems, suffered a trauma or were tortured); and
- there are very different levels of education among newcomers (e.g., while some are professionals with post-graduate degrees, others face literacy challenges and, therefore, may have special learning needs).
CIC representatives find that newcomers need to be able to communicate in English and/or French to meet their needs for social/cultural integration, economic integration and orientation to the Canadian way of life. Knowing the language is key to integration. They may need language training once they arrive and as they endeavour to integrate into Canada, but it is also very useful if they can get some language training before moving to Canada.
Many CIC key informants consider newcomers’ social/cultural needs to be equally important as their economic needs, so it is necessary to orient them effectively in this respect. The following are the aspects of their needs for social/cultural integration:
- Language is the vehicle for cultural and social cohesion.
- Many newcomers do not have a family or community to integrate into, so they need an opportunity to form friendships with their classmates.
- Newcomers need an orientation in how to use available health services and the education system for themselves and/or their children.
- Newcomers need to learn about Canadian culture and social practices to facilitate their social/cultural integration.
- In general, newcomers need to feel attached to their community and to Canadian society. In larger centres, many newcomers may stay primarily with people from their own ethnic background, but in many smaller centres this is not possible, so they need to integrate more with Canadians in general. The degree to which Canadians are welcoming to newcomers in any given community or region is key to the successful social/cultural integration of newcomers.
Regarding economic integration, CIC representatives stress the following:
- Language is an essential means to gain employment. Some key informants note that in today’s knowledge economy and for occupation-specific language, newcomers are not getting trained in English/French to a sufficiently high level through LINC. Most clients and graduates consulted in focus groups also express this view.
- Newcomers need to get attached to the labour market.
- They need to become work-ready individuals by Canadian standards, e.g., by learning how to prepare a résumé or be successful in an employment interview.
- Some clients in the focus groups note, however, that to gain employment they need Canadian experience more than they need help with résumé preparation or employment interviews.
CIC representatives have the following views on newcomers’ needs for orientation to the Canadian way of life:
- This aspect is considered by some to be less important than social/cultural and economic integration.
- The concept is problematic; it is not clearly defined.
- Newcomers need “every day” information on things such as using the transportation system or understanding the media (e.g., the role of advertisements).
- Newcomers need to develop an understanding of how Canada functions and what the expectations are of Canadians. For example, Canada is much less hierarchical and rigid in its expectations of citizens than some other countries. The LINC language teacher plays a key role in conveying and modeling these aspects of life in Canada.
- Some newcomers do not realize how much they need this type of orientation.
- Some newcomers can integrate into certain ethnic communities or neighbourhoods without learning English or French, e.g., in the Spadina area in Toronto. These newcomers are more difficult to access for LINC.
Analysis based on the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) results lends further support to the need for language training to overcome barriers [note 6]. Among the findings of the analysis is that the labour force participation rate and the employment rate are considerably higher for immigrants with official language skills than those without. Moreover, one-fifth of immigrants who identified at least one problem during the process of finding a job state that a lack of skills in either official language is their greatest hurdle in seeking employment. As well, language problems are immigrants’ most frequently identified problem in pursuing further education and are the third most frequently identified difficulty in accessing health care and entering the labour force. These findings suggest that there is a need for and value in supporting language training for immigrants.
More than nine in 10 service providers (92 percent) believe that newcomers are at least somewhat prepared for resettlement in Canada (and of these, 19 percent think that newcomers are very prepared). Only five percent of SPOs feel that newcomers are not at all prepared for settlement, adaptation and integration. Similarly, among LINC clients and graduates who commented in the focus groups, most feel they were at least somewhat prepared to settle in Canada prior to their arrival. For instance, many had studied some English, done research on working in Canada, and received some information from Canadian embassies before leaving their home country. Still, there are many challenges for newcomers in adapting to Canadian society, and they note that they definitely need help in developing their language skills so they can communicate effectively with Canadians in English/French and gain employment. In addition, some graduates report that they were not adequately prepared for the difficulties they would face in attempting to find suitable employment in Canada, nor were they informed that their credentials and work experience would not necessarily be recognized by the Canadian government or prospective employers.
CLIC students who were consulted in the focus group in New Brunswick feel that French language training is not given the same importance in the program as English training. First, to receive French training, the students perceive that they must first demonstrate a level of proficiency in English. Second, French language training is not offered at the same frequency and flexibility as English language training. While students are given the option of full-time or part-time English training, French instruction is only available on a part-time basis. Students, therefore, feel that they will not be able to attain their desired proficiency in French through CLIC.
Continuing Need for Federal Government Settlement Programming
All CIC key informants and LINC clients/graduates in the focus groups feel that there is great need for the federal government to provide the kind of assistance offered by LINC. As evidence, it is noted that 28 percent of adult newcomers lack sufficient language skills; research has demonstrated that language skills are essential for settlement and integration; and the federal government has joint responsibility with the provinces/territories for immigration. Some key informants add that more employment-related assistance is needed for newcomers (e.g., daycare, recognition of foreign professional credentials) and that this may involve other federal departments such as Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
In addition, all CIC key informants believe that the assistance provided by LINC is consistent with current government priorities. The following are some examples to support this view:
- The 2004 Speech from the Throne explicitly referred to the importance of language skills. More generally, the Liberal government has expressed a commitment to innovation and skill development, to making cities (where most immigrants settle) economically viable and competitive, and to encouraging Francophone people to settle outside of Quebec (so skills in English and French are essential in many areas).
- The objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are supported by the LINC program’s focus on facilitating economic integration.
- The government often refers to the importance of “inclusion” of marginalized populations and LINC contributes to this. By helping newcomers integrate, Canada could avoid the kinds of problems faced by newcomers in some other countries.
- Canada needs newcomers for various reasons, e.g., to increase the population in some cities/regions and to increase the number of skilled workers contributing to the economy.
- Canada provides assistance to newcomers so they can contribute economically to Canadian society.
Duplication/Complementarity of LINC with Other Programs
As illustrated in Exhibit 3.1, many service providers observe that LINC is more complementary to other CIC settlement programs (70 percent say “to a great extent” — six or seven on the seven-point scale) than it is to settlement programs offered by provincial/territorial and municipal governments (36 percent). LINC is also perceived to be unique in its role, as there is little concern among service providers that the program duplicates the services offered by alternate settlement programs. Half or more of the SPOs indicate that LINC does not duplicate other CIC settlement programs (74 percent) or provincial/territorial and municipal programs (50 percent) at all, while virtually no service providers note a great deal of overlap between LINC and any of these other programs. It should be noted, however, that roughly one in five service providers are not aware of other provincial/territorial or municipal settlement programs.
For the minority of SPOs that perceive some duplication between LINC and other programs, examples of overlap include the following: some programs provide the same type of language training as LINC; in some areas there are agencies that offer many similar workshops, taking LINC students out of their classes; LINC duplicates some municipal training programs by having the same goals, though not necessarily the same methods; and, in the view of some school boards participating in LINC, other school boards are writing their own curriculum for newcomers, which is seen as unnecessary.
Clarity and Understanding of Objectives, Roles and Responsibilities
Overall CIC representatives find the roles and responsibilities of CIC NHQ, regional offices, local offices and service providers to be fairly well defined and generally well understood. The Contribution Accountability Framework for CIC settlement and resettlement programs helped to define roles and responsibilities for LINC. The roles and responsibilities of the various players, as perceived by key informants, are described below.
CIC NHQ provides policy capacity by providing functional direction and guidance, and relies on regional counterparts to implement policies. Some CIC key informants say they would like more clarification on the division of responsibility for settlement. In addition, some CIC key informants observe an information gap between NHQ and service providers (though one key informant suggests that the Immigration Contribution Accountability Measurement System (iCAMS) may help to remedy this).
CIC regional offices take care of the operational aspects of the program and have direct relationships with and, therefore, accountability over the service providers. Some observations on the regional offices are as follows:
- Rapport between NHQ and regional offices is considered to be formal, open, effective and well defined.
- Regional offices interpret the input on policy and procedures from NHQ for local CIC offices [note 7].
- Although roles and responsibilities are reasonably clear, there is some disagreement over who should have the responsibility for program development at some regional offices. Specifically, the field delivery staff members feel that they should be doing program development, while regional CIC officials feel that they should have this role.
CIC local offices work with regional offices to maintain cohesive relationships with service providers. (In Ontario, however, delivery is centralized at the regional office.) The specific responsibilities of CIC local offices vary because of the different strengths and needs of service providers. For example, a service provider in Toronto will be different from one in Moncton and will face different challenges because of factors such as different funding levels and different kinds and sizes of newcomer populations. For instance, Moncton serves immigrant populations that are more dispersed, while Toronto serves immigrant populations that are compact and more self-contained. Another difference is that Toronto tends to have different service providers for each CIC program, whereas Moncton tends to have the same service provider for several CIC programs.
CIC local offices are responsible for the management and administration of the LINC program [note 8], specifically the contribution agreement management, setting goals, soliciting proposals, monitoring and evaluating. In some cases it is difficult for CIC field staff to visit SPOs as often as they would like, however.
Service providers deliver LINC and are accountable to local offices and nationally through iCAMS. They generally have a good understanding of their role and responsibilities, though the level of understanding varies for different service providers.
Consistent with the observations of key informants, most service providers feel they have a very clear comprehension (six or seven on the seven-point scale) of the objectives of LINC (98 percent), as well as the roles and responsibilities of their particular organization under the program (91 percent). Nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) have a clear understanding of their organization’s reporting requirements for iCAMS, while almost eight in 10 (77 percent) are comfortable with the process of entering information into iCAMS. Seven in 10 service providers (70 percent) feel they have a very good understanding of the program’s funding criteria. The roles and responsibilities of the CIC local office are the least understood aspect of LINC (60 percent). These results are presented in Exhibit 3.2.
Application Process for Selecting Service Providers
Most CIC key informants have confidence that the application process leads to the selection of the most appropriate service providers to deliver LINC. Some CIC key informants note, however, that the current application process does not allow “new players” to enter. In addition, some CIC key informants feel that too much stress on competition would encourage profit-oriented organizations to enter this market, thereby squeezing out the not-for-profit community/faith-based organizations that have established a good rapport with immigrant communities. It is also noted that although there may not be many alternate SPOs in smaller centres/regions, the “water has not been tested” to confirm this, and so not everyone is invited to apply.
The program has recently been considering multi-year arrangements for the following reasons:
- service providers tend to be repeat applicants and are, therefore, well known;
- this will provide SPOs with more stability and allow them to do long-term planning; and
- this approach will also save money because applications from the same organizations will not have to be re-processed every year.
Other comments on the SPO application process include:
- The program used community colleges as SPOs more in the past, but they may cost more than other types of services providers (depending on how the contribution agreements are negotiated) and so they are not used as much at present.
- In selecting SPOs, it can be a challenge to find the optimal balance between providing accessible language training (which requires SPOs with good childminding services and often requires smaller, community-based organizations that are more culturally sensitive) and providing efficient language training with quick learner progress.
Eight in 10 service providers (82 percent) feel that the current funding criteria are at least somewhat effective in ensuring that the proper organizations are funded to deliver LINC services (and 38 percent indicate that the current criteria are very effective).
SPOs make a wide range of suggestions as to how the funding criteria could be made more effective, including the following: make the funding criteria consistent from one service provider to another and from year to year; give settlement agencies the first priority, because then learners only have to go to one place for settlement services, which is easier for newcomers; services should be equitable across the country; agencies serving refugees have greater needs than those serving immigrants and, therefore, need more money per client; there should be a detailed assessment of the capabilities of new organizations to deliver programs; more evaluation of the quality of service providers’ programs is needed, including the qualifications of teachers and coordinators; contribution agreements should not be offered to publicly funded institutions such as schools; and more funding is needed to create organizations in remote areas.
Promotion of LINC
CIC key informants report that there have been no difficulties attracting newcomers to LINC, noting that there are long waiting lists for the language assessments and language courses. Some stress that LINC is very well known among newcomers and that awareness of the program is not an issue — rather, the high demand and long waiting lists for language training are more of an issue.
CIC key informants feel that word-of-mouth (i.e., hearing about the program through family and friends) is the most effective promotional mechanism, however, brochures (e.g., at the overseas Visa office and at the Canadian airport) and the Internet (e.g., websites of SPOs and ethnic/cultural organizations) are also found to be effective for some newcomers. These views are supported by the opinions expressed by clients and graduates in the focus groups. In addition, there are regional associations of service providers, which help to spread the word about LINC.
For some countries the Internet is ideal since newcomers can research the program prior to their arrival, as some clients in the focus groups reported doing. Other clients say they learned about LINC on arrival at the airport, through the immigration officer who met them and pointed out the brochure that was included in their “welcome” package. However, newcomer focus groups that were previously done in an Ontario evaluation have indicated that half of newcomers do not even remember receiving this material at the airport. Some key informants point out that all newcomers are given or have ready access to information, but it is up to them to read it and some newcomers do appear to have difficulty learning about the settlement programs available to them.
CIC key informants feel that CIC needs to continue to provide promotional materials to service providers because it is important to have consistent information on LINC and this approach is cost-effective. In addition, service providers involved in other settlement programs can distribute the information about LINC to their clients.
Nearly four in 10 service providers (39 percent) feel that the program’s promotional materials have greatly increased the awareness of their own organizations, while one-quarter (24 percent) feel that the material has led to a much greater awareness of LINC among newcomers to Canada.
Over half of service providers strongly agree that the promotional materials clearly indicate that the Canadian federal government is responsible for funding the program (59 percent) and that the materials are culturally sensitive (53 percent) (see Exhibit 3.3). In addition, one-third or more SPOs are very pleased with the appropriateness of the languages (40 percent) and the level of literacy used in the materials (33 percent). Approximately one-fifth of service providers, however, are unable to comment on these aspects of LINC promotional materials.
SPOs were asked for their suggestions as to how they would improve the promotion of the LINC program. Responses were quite varied, but those surveyed were most likely to suggest increasing promotion at targeted locations such as points of entry (airports, etc.), schools and workplaces, or greater use of the media (TV, newspapers) or a website. Other frequently mentioned strategies are the following:
- Greater involvement of service providers, local offices in promotion strategies (e.g., allocate funding for a promotional budget for each provider so that it can promote the program to whomever it thinks needs it the most);
- Translate materials into different languages or make the information less literacy-dependent (fewer words, more symbols);
- More specific information (e.g., information tailored to trained professional immigrants, more information on Canada);
- Outreach; and
- Promotion in countries of origin.
Also of note is a suggestion to ask newcomers where they plan to settle and then match them up with LINC service providers in the area. Too much information upon arrival can be overwhelming to newcomers and, therefore, they benefit from having some time to settle and organize themselves before the “welcome wagon” arrives.
Adequacy of Assessment Tools
CIC representatives generally believe that the assessment tools are reasonably good (e.g., because they were developed by experts and they are an improvement over tools previously used), though some CIC key informants report that there is some controversy regarding the English language assessment tools. Both the Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment (CLBA) and the Canadian Language Benchmarks Placement Test (CLBPT) are available, but there are divergent opinions on which is the more effective assessment tool. Those supporting the CLBPT say it is more cost-efficient and timely, and provides more accurate assessments than the CLBA. (Service providers’ views on the CLBA are provided below.) Also, CIC key informants report that É-CLIC needs to be revisited since it is somewhat out of date and assessments for French language ability are not as formalized as they are with the English CLBPT.
On a related matter, some CIC key informants suggest that it is neither cost-effective for the program nor convenient for language assessors to have them travel to Toronto for a week of training, especially considering the high turnover rate for assessors. One suggestion is to create a local train-the-trainer package that could be administered regionally or locally, depending on population size and cost-effectiveness.
Service providers who were involved in language assessment under LINC were asked to rate the effectiveness of the tools available to their organizations. The CLBA is perceived as the most effective tool (22 of 26 SPOs rate it as “extremely effective”), followed by the Canadian Language Benchmark Literacy Assessment (12 of 26 SPOs) and the CLBPT (11 of 26 SPOs). An assessor expresses the opinion that the CLBA takes the longest time (up to three hours) but is also the most accurate test to measure what the client can do, while the CLBPT takes half the time and focuses on identifying what the client cannot do well. Only two of 26 SPOs had the expertise to comment on the Évaluation Cours de Langue pour les Immigrants au Canada (CLIC): one service provider rates this tool as extremely effective, whereas the other regards it as not at all effective.
Most LINC clients and graduates in the focus group discussions appear to be reasonably satisfied with their language assessment and how accurately it measured their abilities. For some, it initially appeared that they were being assessed at too low a level (e.g., due to the fact that they thought they could already read or write English fairly well), but once they discovered how challenging it is to carry on a conversation in Canadian-style English, they determined that they had in fact been assessed appropriately. Moreover, learners with higher-level abilities can advance more quickly to higher levels in the program. In the view of a minority of clients/graduates, however, the language assessments could be improved. Some feel that there should be more emphasis on listening and speaking in the exam, while others suggest that there should simply be “more” to the assessment process, particularly in better identifying learners’ strengths and weaknesses in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
As an indication of the broader usefulness of the assessment tools employed in LINC, SPOs were asked if they use these tools in other similar language programs. Roughly half of the SPOs involved in language assessment (14 of 26) are not applying these tools to other similar programs. One-fifth are doing so to some extent, and just over one-quarter are applying the tools to other programs to a great extent.
Adequacy of Client Needs Assessment
Few CIC key informants could comment in detail on the client needs assessments. Some key informants observe that the needs assessment appears to be working fine, while others perceive that the assessments are not comprehensive enough. This latter observation is supported by the experiences described by clients in the focus groups — many could not recall any “needs assessment” and among those who could, it appears to have been a very brief discussion of their address, class-time preferences, and child-care needs so that they could be referred to suitable SPOs. Currently, little information is collected on clients’ expectations of LINC, and this information would be useful for monitoring and evaluating the program’s expected outcomes.
Placement of Clients
Among CIC key informants who could comment, most perceive that learners are being referred to an appropriate SPO (or to a selection of a few acceptable SPOs) in their community for language training. Similarly, in the focus groups, most clients/graduates report that they are reasonably satisfied with their referrals to SPOs and their placement at a particular language level. In some cases, however, the top choice for a service provider may be too busy to take on new students, so newcomers may need to be placed on a waiting list or settle for another SPO in their community.
Consistent with the above results, the vast majority of service providers indicate that LINC learners are being appropriately placed to at least some extent (i.e., they give a rating of three or higher on the seven-point scale) and roughly half of them indicate to a great extent (i.e., a rating of six or seven on the seven-point scale). These findings suggest that while the placement of learners in LINC training is working reasonably well, there is some room for improvement. Specific survey findings are as follows (see Exhibit 3.4):
- 53 percent of SPOs feel that learners are to a great extent being placed at the appropriate language level, but 45 percent say only to some extent;
- 49 percent feel that learners are to a great extent being placed in the appropriate organizations and 38 percent say to some extent; and
- 42 percent indicate that LINC learners are to a great extent being placed at the appropriate literacy level, while 45 percent say to some extent.
SPOs that indicated that LINC participants in their training programs are to a large extent not being placed in the appropriate organization described some key reasons for this, including the following:
- due to long waiting lists for services, learners are sent to any organization and not necessarily to the most appropriate one;
- assessors do not have an objective rationale for where students are placed, and it appears that they do not have tools to evaluate which organization would be best for an individual;
- referrals have not been equitable, and some agencies have not received any referrals whatsoever;
- learners choose the agency they want to attend, which is good for meeting their location and timing needs, but leaves uncertainty for service providers when it comes to student numbers and knowing whether they can even offer certain courses;
- students are not always aware that a choice exists; and
- in some instances, the placement is based on nearness of the person to the school, rather than the person’s ability to attend on a full-time or part-time basis.
Timeliness of Service Delivery
CIC key informants believe that many newcomers are not able to access LINC in a timely fashion, reporting some waiting lists of up to six months, first for an assessment and then for the language course. This is attributed partly to a continued lack of funding; the funding levels for the program remain the same while costs go up. Secondary migration patterns also contribute to the problem of waiting lists. For example, a number of immigrants already in Canada end up moving to another city in search of employment, such as Calgary, which then places excessive demand on the local SPOs.
The views of LINC clients and graduates are not as negative on the timeliness issue. Most LINC clients and graduates in the focus groups did not have to wait long for an assessment (e.g., some waited only a few days) or for the language training, although some waited from a few weeks up to six months for the next available class at a suitable facility (e.g., close to home, child care available). On balance, clients and graduates do not feel that the wait for an assessment or for a course is too long. Some note, however, that there can be overly long waiting lists for schools that offer child-care services. For example, one client explained that she decided to travel up to two hours to another location in order to begin her course immediately, rather than wait for a spot in the closer school.
In the telephone survey, SPOs were asked to comment on the timeliness of various aspects of the LINC program (see Exhibit 3.5). Most service providers (63 percent) rate the placement/assignment of newcomers to an organization for training following their assessment as extremely timely. In addition, at least half of service providers are very satisfied with the length of time it took for CIC to acknowledge receipt of their application for LINC funding (57 percent), the enrolment of newcomers in a training program following placement (51 percent), and the initial assessment of newcomers’ language ability (50 percent). However, only one-third of these service providers (34 percent) feel that CIC provided them with very timely notification of the decision regarding the success of their application for LINC funding; 44 percent rate this notification as somewhat timely and 13 percent as not at all timely.
Barriers to Client Participation
CIC key informants feel that CIC has already addressed the two major barriers for potential clients to access LINC — child care and transportation — and that the Department has also provided provisions for disabled individuals. Corroborating this opinion, in the focus groups most clients/graduates utilizing child care express satisfaction with and appreciation for this assistance. Regarding the assistance provided to offset transportation costs, however, some clients express frustration with the conditions (e.g., one client notes that the amount of the discount for a transport pass was deducted from other government funding, while another complains about a requirement to purchase passes for several months all at once instead of monthly). In addition, the program offers flexible hours and a number of options for the training (e.g., full time, part time, distance learning), which reduces further barriers.
Additional barriers include the following:
- Having the promotional material only available in English and French is a barrier for individuals with very low English/French comprehension levels.
- Individuals with very low literacy levels are especially challenged in learning about the program, since they may have difficulties understanding promotional material.
- Clients with health problems have difficulties coming to class.
- Clients wanting to live or currently living in smaller communities often do not have access to LINC, since programs are limited to major urban areas. Some smaller communities want to provide LINC because they feel it would help attract newcomers.
- The lack of a living allowance means that clients will not forego work to attend language classes.
- Gender barriers exist for some newcomers; in some cultures, educating women is not seen as necessary or women are not allowed to attend classes with men. This may in some cases limit the participation of women in LINC.
Service providers were also asked to comment on the assistance provided by the program to enable newcomers to overcome barriers to participation (see Exhibit 3.6). Six in 10 (57 percent) feel that the program does a very good job of providing sufficient child-minding assistance and just over one-quarter (29 percent) of respondents are very satisfied with the support provided for transportation. Slightly more than one-third of SPOs (39 percent) are unable to comment on the assistance provided for persons with disabilities, and the remaining service providers express mixed views on the adequacy of this type of assistance: 17 percent indicate that this assistance is insufficient, 25 percent feel that it is somewhat sufficient and 19 percent rate it as largely sufficient.
Quality of Teaching, Tools and Curriculum
Some CIC key informants suggest that there should not be a limit on language training up to CLB level 7, since there is vast variation in clients in terms of their learning abilities and current circumstances. Moreover, higher-level language skills are required for newcomers to gain employment in many occupations and professions (e.g., the nursing profession requires skills at CLB level 8). Clients and graduates in the focus groups also express a great need for higher-level language training. One key informant suggests that a specialized curriculum could be developed to teach higher-level and specialized language skills for particular professional groups.
Most CIC key informants think the program’s focus on Canadian content is appropriate. Some CIC representatives sit in on classes occasionally and observe that classroom conversations cover current topics, Canadian politics, holidays, etc., which provide an opportunity for students to learn about Canadian history, law and customs, as well as a safe setting to hear opinions from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Consistent with the interview findings, LINC clients and graduates consulted in the focus groups are generally very pleased with the courses’ emphasis on Canadian content. For instance, one client appreciates learning about Canada, since it allows her to help her children with their homework and makes her feel connected to them and to Canadian society at large. Clients also appreciate learning Canadian idioms and customs, and receiving guidance from their teacher on what is considered polite or rude in Canada. In addition, they have found the guest speakers (e.g., representatives of the police and fire departments and employment programs, health professionals) and field trips (e.g., to museums, the CBC) to be very helpful and enjoyable.
Many CIC key informants do not know to what extent LINC provides the most appropriate approach for enhancing clients’ language skills, appreciation of Canada or integration into Canadian society. Some suggest that the program should monitor how successful clients are at finding suitable employment, and to what extent they feel LINC contributed to this success. Some CIC representatives also suggest collecting information on the extent to which illiteracy is a problem for newcomers. CIC is in fact working with Statistics Canada to glean information from the International Adult Literacy Survey on the link between language ability and literacy, and is conducting a survey on language ability at the time of receipt of Canadian citizenship.
Teacher ratings were provided by the SPOs involved in training services (see Exhibit 3.7). Virtually all service providers rate the quality of LINC teaching positively — indicating either to “some extent” or a “great extent” for the teacher characteristics assessed in the survey. Most (92 percent) are very confident in their teachers’ training qualifications. Eight in 10 are very satisfied with the training experience (82 percent) and skills (80 percent) of their teachers. Satisfaction with the ratio of teachers to learners is notably lower (63 percent rate this item six or seven and 34 percent rate it three to five on the seven-point scale). Also, 60 percent of service providers feel that their teachers are very satisfied with the program, though 37 percent say they are only somewhat satisfied.
SPOs that are involved in both LINC and the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP) express less positive views on the quality of teaching than do service providers only involved in LINC. Compared to LINC service providers not involved in ISAP, those that are also involved in ISAP are less likely to rate:
- LINC teachers’ training experience as mostly sufficient (68 percent versus 91 percent);
- teachers’ training skills as mostly sufficient (71 percent versus 87 percent); and
- teachers as being mostly satisfied with the LINC program (41 percent versus 68 percent).
In the focus groups, clients and graduates express mixed views on the quality of LINC teaching. While most learners appear to be very satisfied, some complain that some teachers are too lenient and not serious or demanding enough, so that not all time in class is used efficiently. Also, there is perceived to be a lack of consistency in the quality and style of teaching in the program. Some students claim that the quality of their language training depends largely on the teacher, and some have deliberately changed teachers because they were not satisfied. In addition, many clients note that the class sizes are too large, so they do not receive enough attention from the teacher, nor do they have enough opportunity to practice their speaking/listening skills. Some clients also believe that there is too much emphasis on reading, writing and grammar, and not enough on listening/oral comprehension and speaking.
In terms of the teaching tools and curriculum (see Exhibit 3.8), most service providers exhibit high levels of satisfaction with the effectiveness of the curriculum in teaching a second language (89 percent rate it six or seven on the seven-point scale) and providing useful information on day-to-day life in Canada (89 percent). Most SPOs are also very satisfied with the information provided on Canada in the curriculum (88 percent), how it is adapted to best fit the learners’ language level (81 percent), and its relevance to the needs of learners (76 percent). Three-quarters of service providers (73 percent) strongly agree that the teaching tools are up-to-date. Two-thirds or fewer SPOs feel that the curriculum is well-adapted to the literacy needs of learners (62 percent) and that it includes very useful information on securing employment in Canada (53 percent). Note that on this latter point, however, almost half of the SPOs (45 percent) indicate that the curriculum includes somewhat useful employment-related information. Almost half (49 percent) of service providers indicate that the LINC teaching tools have proven very useful in other language training programs, though three in 10 (28 percent) are unable to comment on this issue.
Different types of SPOs have varying views on the teaching tools and curriculum. Compared to SPOs not involved in ISAP, those that are also involved in ISAP are less likely to rate the curriculum as very effective in teaching a second language (80 percent versus 95 percent).
Additional differences in views were observed between SPOs that serve newcomers only and those that serve newcomers as well as other types of clients. Compared to SPOs serving a diversity of clients, those serving only newcomers are less likely to rate:
- the teaching tools as very up-to-date (55 percent versus 79 percent);
- the curriculum as being very well adapted to learners’ language level (67 percent versus 86 percent); and
- the curriculum as including very useful information on day-to-day life in Canada (79 percent versus 92 percent).
When reflecting on the clients’ experience in the training program, eight in 10 service providers agree that learners are highly satisfied with the training (80 percent) and that they advance to the next level when they are ready to do so (77 percent). Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of service providers also feel that learners advance from level to level at an appropriate pace, and roughly one-third (34 percent) indicate that this occurs to some extent. The clients themselves generally express compatible views in the focus groups. Only 22 percent of SPOs strongly agree that learners complete the entire program, however, and 67 percent agree to some extent. These findings are presented in Exhibit 3.9.
Compared to SPOs not involved in ISAP, those that are also involved in ISAP are less likely to rate:
- learners as advancing from level to level at an appropriate pace (37 percent versus 73 percent);
- learners as advancing to the next level when they are ready to do so (63 percent versus 83 percent); and
- learners as completing the entire program (7 percent versus 32 percent).
In addition, compared to SPOs serving a diversity of clients, those serving only newcomers are less likely to rate:
- learners as advancing to the next level when they are ready to do so (67 percent versus 81 percent); and
- learners as being very satisfied with the training (67 percent versus 85 percent).
Testing of Language Acquisition
CIC and SPO key informants suggest developing and using an exit tool (with some comparability to the initial language test) to gauge the achievement of the students in acquiring language abilities. The advantages of such a standardized tool include:
- A standardized test would facilitate the reporting on results and would also allow results to be compared across Canada and for different service providers.
- A standardized test would also be useful for (1) allowing current students to move to another part of Canada and change service providers during their training, and (2) providing an objective measure of language ability for employers. It is important that the test be recognized by the provinces and by employers.
- A standardized test could eliminate the potential problem that some SPOs or instructors may use inadequate testing procedures in an effort to hang on to their students for as long as possible.
Contribution of Research Services to Program Improvements
Seven in 10 SPOs (70 percent) believe that research sponsored under the program has contributed at least to some extent to improved program delivery or services (and 25 percent feel there has been a great contribution from this research). Note that service providers that are educational institutions are more likely to perceive a great contribution from the research in improving program delivery/services (36 percent) than those that are NGOs/not-for-profit organizations (22 percent). One-quarter of the service providers (27 percent) could not comment on this matter, however.
Regional Consistency/Flexibility in Program Delivery
Generally, CIC key informants feel that CIC NHQ provides consistent policy direction for all regions and that it is up to the regions to interpret and implement the NHQ policies.
It is observed that while the program is flexible in theory, the funding is not flexible. In particular, some CIC officials note that the funding formula does not adequately address the challenges associated with training newcomers in smaller centres (which do not have the economies of scale enjoyed in large centres where class sizes can be larger) or in regions with a great distance between centres offering LINC training. The traditional classroom model (which is assumed by the funding formula) is not practical in some areas, so one key informant suggests that the program should do more to support other delivery methods such as distance learning. Another key informant argues that the program should support the objective of regionalization, whereby immigrants are encouraged to settle in areas beyond the three major cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and consequently, LINC should be enhanced in less populated areas.
Overall, most key informants feel that there is little consistency in the delivery of services across CIC jurisdictions and that there is plenty of flexibility to accommodate regional priorities and changing needs. Note, however, that several CIC key informants express concern that some regions offer courses only to CLB level 5, while other regions offer CLB levels 1 through 7.
Adequacy of Financial Controls
While some CIC key informants feel that the financial controls in place to monitor LINC program delivery (e.g., requirements specified in the Contribution Accountability Framework, regular audits) are very good/strict, perhaps even excessive, others say that there are big gaps in this area due to the lack of concrete statistical data. Some key informants feel this will be remedied with the new iCAMS process, which will track information on clients and services delivered across all regions.
Adequacy of Monitoring and Evaluation
There is some CIC capacity in audit and evaluation (which had to be rebuilt after the time of the program review, when evaluation was downsized due to limited resources). Monitoring activities include regular visits to SPOs by CIC field officers; community consultations to assess local needs; monthly progress reporting that is rolled up annually; and regular audits, including feedback to local CIC offices and SPOs for comment, as well as the implementation of corrective measures as required. Information on best practices and ways to improve LINC is shared among CIC representatives and SPOs at various meetings/conferences (e.g., meetings of regional and national advisory or working groups) and in newsletters.
CIC key informants note that the current study is the first program evaluation to be undertaken at the national level. Ontario is the only region to have conducted an evaluation at the regional level, and that study was conducted a while ago. Until the current study, any assessment of the program was informal and based mostly on anecdotal information. Some key informants hold the view, however, that the current evaluation is too limited in its scope and methodology to provide conclusive evidence of incremental program impacts on newcomers. It is also observed that regular reporting on program performance has been poor given the lack of a standardized exit test of language acquisition and the fact that iCAMS was not yet fully implemented. The latter will provide useful data, including the number of clients, how long it takes clients to progress through the program, and the number of graduates.
A review of the usefulness of CIC administrative data in measuring program performance confirms some of the concerns raised in the key informant interviews. First is iCAMS, which was released in summer 2002. This Internet-based data collection system has been designed to allow SPOs receiving CIC contribution program funds (through LINC and other CIC programs) to report on services delivered to clients. The data collected are intended to allow the Department to assess program results (such as number of clients served) and thereby improve its results-based accountability. However, while the latest iCAMS quarterly report (October–December 2003) indicated that 86 percent of the entered data was valid, it was also shown that only three-quarters (74 percent) of SPOs actually entered data on clients, with Ontario training SPOs being particularly low at 66 percent. Moreover, contact information is not maintained on clients, which means that it was not possible to survey them for the present evaluation.
CIC also is responsible for three other databases that potentially could be useful in measuring program performance. These are the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), conducted by CIC in collaboration with Statistics Canada, which provides information on new immigrants’ adaptation to and integration over time; the Landed Immigrant Data System, which provides a profile of immigrants (but not current contact information); and the Immigration Database, which links immigrants’ attributes at landing to subsequent personal income tax files and, therefore, provides longitudinal data on immigrants’ economic performance and mobility. However, discussions with CIC officials reveal that there is no link in any of these databases to the LINC program. LSIC respondents are not asked if the language training they took was sponsored by LINC. As a result, it is not possible to identify LINC participants in these databases and measure their outcomes.
However, this is not to say that the LSIC database in particular does not have potential in a general sense to measure the value of language training. The LSIC will ask immigrants about their experiences in adjusting to life in Canada in terms of finding accommodation, participating in the labour market, accessing learning opportunities, accessing health care, exercising their rights as citizens, and their language ability. The same group of immigrants will be asked questions on these issues six, 24 and 48 months after their arrival in Canada. It is possible to distinguish immigrants who have had language training from those who have not, and, therefore, observe differences in the extent and rate of integration between those with and those without language training. It is not possible, however, to determine whether or not the language training was sponsored by LINC. Thus, LSIC data cannot be used to measure LINC performance in terms of outcomes for immigrants, although the potential exists for rigorous measurement of the impacts of language training using a participant-comparison group survey methodology.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
Effectiveness and Efficiency of Delivery Model
Some CIC key informants feel that the current delivery mechanism is not the most efficient model. They suggest that if efficiency is the goal, then the program should consider using existing teaching infrastructure, instead of creating a parallel training model. Other CIC key informants note that the current system is fine since the federal government needs to go directly to experts to teach second languages, because its expertise lies in policy and not teaching. Moreover, direct service delivery by the federal government would be more costly than delivery through SPOs, many of which are voluntary organizations.
It is also noted that the program needs to utilize a variety of delivery approaches and a variety of SPOs in order to ensure that the language training is accessible and tailored to the needs of newcomers in different parts of the country, even if these approaches are not the least costly. Key informants note that the most cost-effective delivery partners are not-for-profit organizations, followed by school boards. The delivery of LINC through community colleges may be less cost-effective due to the greater expense.
SPOs note many key strengths of the LINC program. The most commonly cited strengths are as follows, in order of frequency:
- the curriculum is appropriate and/or practical;
- assistance such as child minding and transportation;
- flexibility in terms of hours and/or location;
- the assessment process;
- the quality and training of staff and instructors; and
- the fact that the program is free of charge for newcomers.
Clients and graduates also identify some strengths of LINC:
- the opportunity to learn about Canada and the Canadian way of life;
- the opportunity to learn and practice English/French language skills, including Canadian dialect, expressions, etc.;
- the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures;
- the fact that the Government of Canada offers the program (and related assistance such as child care) at no cost to newcomers — this is greatly appreciated;
- the relationships forged with teachers who become an important Canadian resource person for newcomers; and
- the relationships/friendships with and social support from fellow LINC students who are facing common challenges in adjusting to life in Canada — newcomers would feel much more isolated without this support.
Suggestions for Improvement
Some CIC key informants suggest that a national training institution with a presence in every region would be ideal since a standard curriculum could be established. Other suggestions for potentially more cost-effective delivery approaches that could be tried or utilized more often include: providing more language training overseas, before newcomers arrive in Canada; self-study by DVD; distance learning (which is less costly, but not a good substitute for face-to-face learning); teaching better tailored classes, with everybody at the same level of ability; and the use of ESL experts to help tutor smaller groups of learners.
In addition, service providers suggest numerous ways to improve LINC service delivery. The following issues were raised most often, in order of priority:
- provision of a higher level of language training for those who qualify, or networking with an organization that provides it;
- more employment-related training (e.g., résumé writing, job searching, business English);
- improve/expand upon child minding and/or transportation (e.g., offer bus passes instead of tickets as they are more convenient and allow the student to travel around the community as well as to and from classes);
- greater flexibility (in terms of classes, promotion rates);
- more or better-allocated funding;
- increased use of computers in classes;
- standardized testing (e.g., exit exams);
- improved training and qualifications of staff (including more professional development opportunities for them); and
- making individuals who are seeking asylum from within Canada and Canadian citizens [note 9] eligible for LINC classes.
Finally, LINC clients and graduates offer the following suggestions for improving the program:
- Provide language training to higher CLB levels. LINC provides training to a certain level, providing a foundation, but this is not perceived to be enough for newcomers to then proceed to the workplace or to further education. There is gap between the language level that LINC provides and the next step to integration (e.g., job, school). There is a need for more advanced language training and language training for the professions. Many newcomers cannot afford to pay for further ESL courses (and associated costs such as day care) on their own.
- Provide a stronger linkage between the LINC language training and the development of an educational or career plan. This may involve the establishment of a new program or increased funding for more placements in existing programs (e.g., the Work Experience for Immigrants Program in Alberta).
- Reduce the size of the classes. For example, in a class of 20 students one can go for a full day and not speak, which is not good for language training. There is praise for some classes that have a Teaching Assistant available to work individually with the students, however.
- Improve the quality and standardization of training so there is more consistency. Related to this, some clients feel that some LINC teachers should be more demanding and strict so newcomers will learn as much as possible.
- Discontinue the practice of combining LINC levels into one class, which dilutes the training and in some cases makes it too easy for those at the higher levels.
- Tailor the training more to the individual needs of students (e.g., to address students’ unique strengths and weaknesses in reading, writing, speaking and listening). For example, some learners feel the need to practice their writing, whereas others need to practice listening and speaking Canadian English. Courses should be offered around specific skill sets, rather than a combination of reading, writing, speaking and listening.
- Offer more opportunities for newcomers to practice conversation with Canadians. For instance, consider developing programs in which youths or senior citizens volunteer to get together with small groups of newcomers for conversation.
- Offer more opportunities to practice listening to different types of Canadian television broadcasts.
- Provide some of the key practical details about life in Canada (e.g., how to use public transportation in the community) early in the program to help newcomers who need to learn this basic information.
- Improve the credibility of the LINC certificate. A significant problem is the lack of meaning attached to the current LINC certificate (e.g., it does not provide newcomers with any certification recognized by colleges, the workplace or professions). It is also suggested that LINC include a component for preparation for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam.
- There is a need for specialized training offered specifically for LINC participants and related to work. For example, some students have been offered forklift and First Aid training, and they express a need for more of this type of training. In addition, some clients express a need for more information on government programs available to help them develop job skills and find employment.
Impacts on Clients’ Language Abilities
In the focus group discussions, clients and graduates report that LINC has greatly helped them to improve their English/French language skills, especially in listening and speaking (i.e., because many students had learned some reading and writing before coming to Canada). Moreover, many say that they are becoming more comfortable speaking to Canadians in public, though this is clearly a challenge for most, and there are some clients who do not yet feel comfortable with this. Some clients note that Canadian adults are easier to understand than youths, who tend to have their own unique words. They explain that the program has helped them learn the basics, but it will take a long time for them to become perfectly comfortable with the language in Canada. Not surprisingly, most clients and graduates say that they typically speak their mother tongue at home and with friends.
Although many CIC key informants feel that they are not in a position to comment on the extent to which LINC contributes to clients’ ability to communicate in English or French, some observe that the program appears to do so and that clients appear to be more comfortable communicating. Without a standard exit test, however, it is difficult to accurately gauge the extent to which clients’ language abilities improved over the course of the program. A standard exit test could track clients’ comfort level with communication, as well as with their social/cultural and economic integration.
Consistent with the above findings, the vast majority of service providers (89 percent) perceive that the LINC language training greatly improves learners’ language skills and abilities (see Exhibit 3.10). In addition, roughly half of service providers (51 percent) feel that the program greatly increases learners’ literacy and numeracy skills, and more than one-third (38 percent) observe moderate improvements in this respect. Note, however, that SPOs serving only newcomers are less likely to indicate that the language training has greatly increased learners’ literacy/numeracy skills (27 percent) than those that serve newcomers as well as other types of clients (59 percent).
Service providers, when asked why the program may not be contributing to its expected outcomes to the extent it could be, were most likely to suggest one of the following four reasons, listed in order of how frequently cited:
- Students’ specific needs are not being met – for example, the class sizes are too large or the needs of a specific population of students, such as professionals or people over the age of 50, are not adequately addressed;
- Time constraints – such as the three-year limit or classes that are too short;
- Attendance issues – due to factors such as work or family issues, as there are not enough mechanisms built in to encourage students to attend; and
- Outside circumstances – that may be beyond the program’s control, such as financial pressures on students, their professional goals, and family responsibilities (e.g., pregnancies in the case of women).
Service providers perceive that learners’ degree of success in improving their language ability can vary as a function of their background characteristics (see Exhibit 3.11). In particular, the vast majority of SPOs observe that the degree of success in LINC language training varies as a function of the learners’ foreign educational qualifications (86 percent) and their age (79 percent). On the other hand, gender is regarded as a success factor for only a minority (28 percent) of service providers.
Specifically, service providers observe that learners’ degree of success in the program varies in the following ways:
- Foreign educational qualifications: Of 114 service providers who believe that education level is a success factor, the majority indicates that learners with a university degree (100 percent) or college diploma (79 percent) are able to improve their language ability the most. Also, half of these SPOs (47 percent) indicate that learners with a high-school diploma are likely to do better in LINC, but very few (2 percent) believe that learners with less than a high-school education will perform well in the program.
- Age: Of 104 SPOs who select age as a factor, most indicate that learners aged 20 to 34 (92 percent) and 35 to 54 (63 percent) perform best in LINC. Significantly fewer feel that seniors aged 55 or older (2 percent) and youth aged 15 to 19 (36 percent) learn best in the program.
- Country of origin: Of 77 service providers who feel that country of origin is a factor, most note that learners from Europe or other countries where people speak languages similar to English or French have more success in LINC.
- Income level in country of origin: Of the 73 SPOs who select income level as a factor, most believe that middle- and high-income earners (68 percent in each case) have more success in the program than low-income earners (8 percent).
- Linguistic group (mother tongue): Of 68 service providers selecting this factor, most observe that Europeans or those who speak languages alphabetically or phonetically similar to English or French have more success in LINC.
- Current income level: Of 52 SPOs selecting this factor, most perceive that middle- and high-income earners (77 percent and 56 percent, respectively) have more success than low-income earners (12 percent).
- Gender: Of 37 SPOs who believe that gender is a success factor, most think that women (73 percent) perform better in LINC than men (19 percent).
Impacts on Clients’ Knowledge of Canada and Canadian Civics
Clients and graduates feel that LINC has helped them to learn basic details about Canada and Canadian civics. Topics such as history, geography, customs, holidays and current events are covered in class, and the teachers are very helpful in answering questions about Canada. Similarly, CIC key informants believe that clients’ knowledge of Canada and of Canadian civics is improved due to LINC, because the course content provides a fairly good introduction to these topics (e.g., history, geography, how things work in Canada, current events). Most SPOs (87 percent) also believe that the LINC Program has greatly enhanced learners’ knowledge of Canada. In addition, some key informants note that newcomers who choose to live in Canada tend to be more motivated to learn about the country. Also, the need to pass the citizenship test motivates newcomers to learn about Canada.
Impacts on Clients’ Ability to Interact in a Culturally Diverse Environment
CIC key informants feel that clients are more prepared to interact in a culturally diverse environment because of LINC, and they attribute this to the multicultural classrooms. In other words, because LINC classes include people from many different cultures, clients learn about other cultures and religions and learn to be respectful of different people. Different cultural celebrations are acknowledged and explained, for example. Clients and graduates also express this view in the focus groups. Similarly, most service providers (79 percent) indicate that the LINC Program has greatly improved learners’ ability to interact and communicate in Canada.
Other Impacts on Clients
Most SPOs (79 percent) believe that the program has to a great extent improved learners’ confidence in independently accessing community services such as banking, medical appointments and government services. In addition, service providers observe that LINC has helped to increase learners’ ability to get a job in Canada, either to some extent (53 percent) or a great extent (46 percent). Fewer SPOs (37 percent) believe that the program contributes greatly to the learners’ ability to meet their personal goals, such as education, employment and improved income, though 60 percent think the program contributes to some extent.
The views expressed by clients and graduates in the focus groups are generally compatible with these observations of SPOs. They do believe that they have learned a lot about and have become more confident in accessing community resources in Canada, though many express a need for more practical details (e.g., more information on all government employment-related services available to them, more assistance in communicating with doctors). Also, as noted earlier, most clients and graduates do not feel that LINC trains them to a high enough CLB level for most jobs and that their lack of Canadian work experience is a major barrier to employment. They feel that the program helps them indirectly in pursuing other goals, such as further education and employment, by providing them with a foundation of language skills which “opens the door” for further pursuits in Canada. In the view of some clients and graduates, however, the program should provide more assistance in linking their language training with educational and/or career planning. In addition, graduates feel that they are or will be contributing to Canadian society. Many have done or plan to do volunteer work (e.g., at schools, hospitals, nursing homes, churches, public libraries); some are pursing education (e.g., in a career-related field, in ESL); and some have jobs (e.g., part-time work at a garage or coffee shop), though these are often not professional jobs in their chosen field. Many also plan to become Canadian citizens, though it will take some time before they “feel” like a Canadian.
Impacts on Public Awareness and Cultural Sensitivity
Only one-quarter of service providers (26 percent) believe that the LINC Program has contributed a great deal towards an increased sensitivity to and appreciation of cultural diversity in Canada, though just over half (53 percent) perceive a moderate contribution in this regard. Similarly, over three-quarters of SPOs indicate that LINC has contributed greatly (20 percent) or somewhat (58 percent) to an increased awareness of the benefits of immigration among Canadians in general (see Exhibit 3.12).
In the focus groups, most clients and graduates perceive that Canadian society (including most Canadians they meet) is very welcoming and receptive to people from different cultures. For instance, some clients describe Canadians as “friendly,” “always smiling” and “very helpful,” and they note that they have felt less welcome visiting other countries. For some clients it is difficult to comment on this issue, however, because they do not know any “native Canadians” well and they socialize primarily with their own ethnic community. In addition, some feel that they have experienced some discrimination or insensitive remarks about their language ability in the workplace.
6. See The Daily on the Statistics Canada website: http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/030904/d030904a.htm
7. In addition to providing input on policy and procedures, NHQ gives directions to regional offices and solicits input from regional and local offices when policy is being developed.
8. Local settlement managers and officers also play a key role in the development of programs.
9. It should be noted that Canadian citizens have access to language training courses through the regular school system.
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