Next on the agenda for ESOL

December 2011


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MARTY PILOTT outlines the tentative plans for the allocation of the delivery of ESOL to the 700 new places announced in the 2011 budget.

Now that the spending of every public dollar is closely scrutinised, it is reasonable to ask what we gain from spending on ESOL tuition and how it should be spent. The social argument is that refugees and migrants should have the same opportunities as other New Zealanders, which can only be achieved through a functional level of English. The economic argument is it is far cheaper to pay for ESOL courses than to support migrants on welfare for decades.

Governments have accepted these arguments by providing ESOL in various forms. However, the need to justify spending has usually led to tying significant expenditure to outcomes of work or further training. The outcome requirements of ‘get to work’ courses mean that applicants with low English, those who are older and those with disabilities have to be refused entry as there is a lower likelihood they will find work. This year Training Opportunities conditions became even more stringent, leading to closure of courses and further restrictions at even higher levels, shutting out even more learners from ESOL courses.

Under the 2011 budget, there are to be 700 more places for ESOL learners with the “highest needs” and full fees for up to 400 refugees to study towards an ESOL qualification in mainstream tertiary education environments.

A meeting was held at the Tertiary Education Commission (TECC) in Wellington, incorporating a video link from Auckland, with representatives from TEC, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Ministry of Education, providers and TESOLANZ. The purpose was to gather advice on how to allocate the delivery of ESOL to the 700 new places announced in the budget. The following was broadly agreed on by the meeting, but is still to be approved:

Eligible learners. The funding will be aimed at refugees and migrants whose English is up to NZQA level 2 (roughly IELTS 4). There was some discussion on the inclusion of older learners given the government emphasis on employment, but they were not ruled out.

Delivery. Funding will be offered through providers which are already TEC funded, whether through literacy and numeracy or Foundation Funded Training Opportunities. The funding cannot be offered through SAC (EFTS).

Extent and content. Learners may study for up to three years at 400 hours per year. The hours per week will be arranged by the provider. It will also be possible to offer courses for specific purposes appropriate to the learners, such as conversation or literacy, so that a good outcome will not require all skills.

Outcomes. The outcomes will be based on progress in ESOL (i.e. there will be no work/study outcomes as for FFTO). Many of the learners likely to access this funding will be pre-literate, so three level outcomes will be needed for pre-literate learners and a further two beyond that.

Marty Pilott is Secretary of TESOLANZ