Many of them were worried that the courses would be turned into "party classes," and that some of their fellow students would no longer take them seriously - coming late, leaving early or just skipping entirely if they didn't feel like attending.
"Does this mean you won't be teaching grammar anymore?" asked one of my Advanced level students. " I can't get a better job if I don't improve the grammar in my writing." " Is this the end of academic reading and writing practice?" asked another."
Although I was a little surprised at their reaction, I laughed and told them that nothing would change - at least for now. I would still be teaching exactly what I had been teaching for the past 15 years.
Still, their questions were quite valid..
Up until this week, British Columbia has offered free settlement ESL classes to beginner and intermediate students in a program called ELSA (English Language Service for Adults) Students in other more "academic" programs have had to pay tuition fees. Those who couldn't afford the fees have been given government sponsored "grants", which they have not had to repay. However, starting this April, these "academic" classes have become tuition free for citizens and landed immigrants.
Of course, "free" doesn't really mean "free." The federal government will be covering the cost. That means ALL Canadians will be paying for these classes through their taxes. This is the reason foreign students will NOT be getting the same deal. Neither they or their parents have ever paid Canadian taxes, so they will have to pay for the privilege of learning English in Canada, just as they always have.
The question of whether or not ESL classes should be entirely free right up to the highest level is a controversial one.
Would the Chinese, Korean, or Indian government offer language education to any adults immigrating to their countries, or would the immigrants have to pay for their own instruction?
Will students who can get this language education for free take it as seriously, and do the same amount of work as they would if they were paying for it? Even my own students were worried that this might be a problem.
How do YOU feel about this?
I would like my readers to voice their own opinion on this issue. I don't care if you live in Canada or any other country, whether you are immigrants, citizens, people with working visas (caregivers, etc) or international students.
What is YOUR OPINION?
- Should ALL ESL classes be free? Why or why not?
- Who, if anyone, should have to pay? Why or why not?
- If people should pay, how much should they pay?
- What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of free ESL classes?
- Include your reasons about whether you think this is a good thing, or whether it will have negative consequences.
Write your answers and opinions in the comment box below. If you are not sure how to do this, read the article on How to Post a Comment on the left hand side.