Who we heard from

Over the course of the consultation we received feedback through written submissions and in-person regional focus groups with adult learners.

Consultation paper: Strengthening the Adult Education System in Ontario

The Ministries of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD), Education (MEDU) and Citizenship and Immigration (MCI), asked adult education partners to share their feedback on our ideas, priorities and proposed plans to fulfill the vision of a seamless and learner-centered adult education system that provides all Ontarians with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills and participate fully in the workforce and a constantly evolving society.

Focus groups with adult learners

The ministries, in partnership with Code for Canada, an organization that brings together government innovators and civic technologists to build digital solutions that work for citizens, conducted focus groups across the province with adult learners. The participants were from all adult education programs, including immigrants, Indigenous, Deaf and francophone learners.

The focus groups provided adult learners with the opportunity to share their experiences and identify how the system could be improved from their perspective.

  • 87
    number of focus group participants
  • 80
    number of written responses received

What we heard

Adult learners and respondents provided creative and thoughtful responses to many of our questions. There were some varying opinions on how we should proceed. This is a summary of what we heard, categorized under the following themes:

Finding information

Improved integrated information about programs

We heard that there is a need to improve information and access to programs that match learner’s individual needs.

The needs of adult learners vary greatly across the adult education system. For learners to succeed it is essential that they have access to clear and accurate information about the program options available to them.

Learners identified the need for more transparency and complete information about the programs available to them, and:

  • they want to be empowered to make their own decisions, but at times felt confused about how to achieve their goals.
  • expressed support for developing a digital solution to help learners navigate information about programs and/or services that best fit their needs.
  • expressed that many adult learners have low digital literacy and often require in-person supports. The ministries recognize this challenge and are exploring ways in which service providers can use the tool with learners.
  • emphasized limitations of existing program reach  because of geographic availability and in attracting learners who could benefit from the program.

Feedback suggested that programs be more widely communicated and available throughout the province.

Remote communities
Learners in northern and remote communities identified gaps in service, particularly for francophone and Indigenous learners. Indigenous learners also shared that On-Reserve communication about learning opportunities and supports would improve awareness and access to programs. Indigenous service providers also noted that there should be more culturally sensitive adult learning programming for urban Indigenous populations.

Social supports

Better “wrap-around” supports for adult learners across programs

We asked about how the system can be more responsive to learners with diverse and complex needs, such as cultural and previous negative school experiences, poverty, disability, poor health and well-being.

To improve adult learners’ successful participation in learning and instruction, they may require a range of learning-related and social supports, known as “wrap-around supports”. These solutions include things such as child care and transportation expense reimbursement.

Some francophone and Deaf learners felt as though their language was a barrier to employment and additional supports and interventions are required.

Indigenous learners expressed that in many cases they are unaware of the types of support available to them, which is a significant challenge given that many Indigenous learners experience barriers and receive minimal support from their communities.

Learners indicated that improved transparency and clearer information on the availability of wrap-around services will support them in deciding which program and/or service provider site to enroll with.

Intake and pathways

Clearer and more coordinated intake, assessment and referrals in programs

Consultation participants were asked to comment on how the province can support program intake, pathway planning, and learning transitions to enable adults to achieve their learning, career, and personal goals as quickly as possible.

We heard about the need for:

  • more coordinated intake, assessment and referrals across programs in the adult education system
  • implementing ways to better recognize adult learners’ prior learning and skills
  • the need for a standard assessment process, with integration of learner assessment records

We also heard that intake processes must be sensitive to learners’ prior learning, which includes recognition of skills and knowledge gained in both formal and informal learning accomplishments. Learners, particularly immigrants, highlighted the barriers faced in regards to the recognition of their prior learning and foreign credentials and the recognition of activities in non-credential programs and services.

Learners and respondents to the consultation paper also expressed that because of existing funding structures, the current system can encourage competition between service providers for enrolling learners. This does not always support referrals of adult learners to the program and services that best match their circumstances. The consultation also revealed that francophone and immigrant learners, in particular, are not always referred to the most appropriate program or are referred to English services by default.

In assessing prior learning, Indigenous organizations shared the importance of educators recognizing and identifying highly valuable transferable skills including citizenship, creativity, communication, and cooperation inherent to cultural activities that take place in communities. Respondents also expressed that it is necessary for Indigenous learners to have access to language, ceremony, and other cultural practices and protocols.

Guidance and pathway planning

Better guidance and pathway planning to support smoother learner transitions between programs and services

We asked about ways in which the system’s capacity to provide needed guidance and support for pathway planning can be improved.

A common theme was the need for clear, coordinated pathways to help adult learners easily navigate between the programs that best help them achieve their goals and transition to their next step, whether that is education, further training and/or employment. Information on various options and pathways must be clear and easily available to adult learners and prospective learners.

We also heard that it is important for the adult education system to be equipped with counsellors who can help adult learners make appropriate decisions about their training, and support them as they transition through the pathway to their goal. Adult learners made positive comments about the key role that instructors and program administrators play in a learner’s decision-making process throughout their learning journey. Many learners shared that they likely would not have enrolled in their program, if it was not for the assistance and motivation of their service provider’s guidance and support in pathway planning.

Some adult learners indicated that they feel confused and uncertain about their next steps and want a roadmap to help guide them to their goal. We heard that clearer connections to other learning opportunities, including employment and training services, can help adult learners plan their next steps accordingly and reduce confusion. Respondents also suggested that one of the ways the government could support improved transitions would be to help establish partnerships between providers of adult education programs and other services, such as employment services. Service providers and caseworkers would then have the information and tools they need to make appropriate referrals and create a learning plan with the learner.

Regional partnerships

Enhanced regional collaboration among providers and support organizations

We asked about how cross-sector collaboration and coordination of adult education can be better supported to ensure the availability of seamless programs and services for learners.

Many respondents agreed that encouraging greater collaboration and coordination across sectors will help streamline referral processes, facilitate learner mobility and ease transitions for learners. The majority of respondents stated that communication and collaboration among service providers, including regional partners, is important both for supporting seamless pathways for adult learners and for ensuring the availability of programming that meets local needs.

We heard that leveraging existing regional networks, partnerships and planning bodies could help establish links between service providers, organizations and local employers. It was also noted that in some regions, this collaboration is already happening through partnership planning meetings, dialogue and pilot projects.

We also heard that the MAESD, MEDU, MCI, and the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) can do a better job of coordinating internally to better align operational policies and structures. This alignment will support more seamless delivery of services and supports. Respondents also said there is an opportunity for the ministries to better encourage coordination between service providers by reviewing the current incentive structures for the delivery of training programs and services.

Next steps

Together, the ministries, MAESD, MEDU and MCI, are considering the feedback received through the consultation. As a result of your feedback and collaboration, we:

  • began working closely with the MCSS, which administers two social assistance programs: Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. These programs play a pivotal role in supporting learners who pursue adult education.
  • created and met with a cross-ministerial and cross-sectoral advisory committee to support enhanced collaboration and coordination across the adult education system. The goal of the Lifelong Learning Advisory Committee is to act as a highly-interactive, problem solving group that will provide advice to the ministries in delivering on their commitment to work with their partners to strengthen the adult education system. The committee will support enhanced collaboration and coordination across the adult education system.
  • worked across ministries to support pilot projects and regional partnerships that focus on coordinated intake, assessment and referral of learners to the most suitable programs and services. In February 2018, the government initiated 13 pilot projects across the province to help improve the experiences of adults in the access and delivery of services, and to encourage greater collaboration and coordination across sectors. The projects help streamline the referral process, facilitate learner mobility and ease their transitions.
  • are continuing our work with Code for Canada to develop a digital solution aimed at helping adult learners and service providers navigate consolidated and integrated information about learner’s potential education and training options. The goal of the tool is to support learners in making appropriate decisions about their training, based on their identified needs and geographical location.