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Plea to reverse refugee English cuts ignored

Feb 11th, 2011 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

Appeals for a review of funding cuts to English language courses for refugees and migrants have been ignored by Government ministers.

The cuts, which have taken effect this year, mean refugees have just six months of learning to reach a required level of English.

Previously they were funded for three years.

Teachers wrote to Tertiary Education Minister Stephen Joyce and Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett in November calling on them to amend a policy to help refugees after the last reduction in the ESOL funding.

The ministers have not responded to the letter.

Marty Pillot, pictured, the secretary of ,Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Aotearoa New Zealand (TESOLANZ), stated in the letter that teachers agree with the Department of Labour’s assessment that level five is the minimal English level for successful access to work or further study.

The level is measured by the International English Language Testing System.

“It is our experience that refugees who arrive with no English typically need three years of full-time study before they are able to approach that level,” he wrote.

“The reduction of the Training Opportunities limit to 26 weeks will leave a large number unable to access either work or further study.”

Newswire reported on the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding changes on November 10, and since then TESOLANZ held an executive meeting to discuss further action.

Mr Pillot urged in the letter to the Ministers to develop specific ESOL policy for adults separate from other funding.

He also asked the ministers to assure current Training Opportunities providers that 2011 will be a transition year in which they will not be penalised for poor outcomes from students resulting from the 26-week limit.

The letter also contained three long term proposals:

• Establish funding for all refugees, who lack sufficient English, to have up to three years of ESOL training with work/study outcome applied after the three years;

• Define “study at a higher level” so as not to penalise further ESOL study;

• Permit all providers to offer student achievement funded ESOL courses from beginner’s level upwards with outcomes of work or further study, including a higher level ESOL course.

Mr Pillot believes that since it will be impossible to achieve the work or study outcomes in 26 weeks, training organisations will only take clients with a high standard of English, and leaving clients at lower levels nowhere to go.

This will mean less people on courses.

“Classes will be half empty. The only providers of training opportunities in the West Coast and Hutt Valley are pulling out, and others may follow.”

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is a Whitireia journalism student. He is a Jordanian who is studying in New Zealand.
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