SURREY: Giving adult learners the literacy skills to thrive

Melanie Mark

INVESTMENTS in literacy will give adult learners in Surrey the opportunity to connect with their community, apply for jobs and bond with their children through reading, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark announced on Friday.

“We are helping people in Surrey and throughout the province transform their lives by developing stronger reading, writing, math and computer skills,” said Mark, who visited the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society in Surrey. “Literacy skills give people the opportunity to thrive, not just get by. They unlock the ability to do things many of us take for granted ― like being able to read a label, write an email or apply for a better job.”

Ninety-three literacy programs throughout British Columbia are receiving a total of $2.4 million in 2017-18, including two in Surrey:

  • The Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society, which delivers the Learn with a Friend program in Surrey
  • READ Surrey / White Rock Society, which delivers the Partners Adult Literacy Tutoring program in Surrey and White Rock

These programs are provided in locations that are accessible for adult learners, including public-school libraries, public libraries and community centres.

“People work hard and lead busy lives. They need the opportunity to learn close to home,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “We’re supporting adult learners by investing in community-based literacy programs that give people of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn in places that are welcoming and familiar.”

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) is also partnering with these community literacy providers to connect adult learners in Surrey with the skills they need to build a strong future for themselves and their families. Literacy providers and post-secondary institutions collaborate to support improved learner outcomes and encourage transition from community programs to post-secondary studies.

“KPU is pleased to partner with regional literacy providers to support the literacy of residents in our region as they work towards a better life for themselves and their families,” said Alan Davis, President of KPU. “Math, writing and computer skills are the building blocks for a life enriched with friends, community and post-secondary education.”

Available literacy programs include one-on-one tutoring and small-group training for adult learners.

“These programs respond directly to the needs of our adult learners,” said Gita Matthews, a literacy instructor from the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society. “It’s exciting to see the participants move from learning literacy skills towards their final goal of getting employment.”

Smaller, community-based literacy programs are well situated to meet the educational needs of adult students.

“The Partners Adult Literacy Tutoring program helps adult learners gain the basic literacy skills they need to move forward in their lives, unlock their potential and contribute to society,” said READ Surrey / White Rock Society board chair Aimee Begalka. “Our learner-led program responds to the needs and goals of the individual. These goals have ranged from getting a driver’s licence, to writing a trades entrance exam, to building up their confidence, so they can move on to more education.”

“For our clients, a bank, a shopping mall or a job centre can be an intimidating place and it can lead people to isolate themselves because they feel they cannot communicate,” said Satbir Singh Cheema, CEO of the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society. “We see every day how our Learn with a Friend program helps students as they build the specific literacy skills they need to reach across that separation and begin to build better lives.”

The government’s support of community-based literacy programs is part of its commitment to connect British Columbians with the education and training they need to succeed. On August 8, the Province also made Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning programs in B.C. tuition-free.