Erfan Mahdizadeh's dream of a business degree from one of British Columbia's top universities is back on course, thanks to English as Second Language (ESL) training.
Erfan was born and raised in Iran. As a top student, he earned the opportunity to go to university in Malaysia where he studied for a year and partially completed a bachelor degree in financial engineering. His family's decision to immigrate to Canada brought him to Vancouver in 2008, where he planned to continue his post-secondary studies in commerce and computer science.
Erfan quickly discovered however that despite the extensive English language instruction he had received throughout his school years in Iran and his post-secondary experience in Malaysia, he lacked the English skills required to gain entrance to any of the B.C. universities he wanted to attend. In fact, he failed the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test four times.
Feeling discouraged and burned out, Erfan sought help. He enrolled in the College Preparatory English program at Vancouver Community College (VCC), set to work and completed all three levels of the program over the past year achieving his Grade 12 English equivalency.
Along with the English reading, writing, listening and speaking skills he gained, Erfan credits his ESL courses with improving his social and interpersonal skills, and giving him the confidence to run for and win an elected position on VCC's Students' Union.
He notes that ESL teachers do a great deal more than instruct in grammar and vocabulary. They help immigrants understand Canadian culture and society. They provide support and direction to their students in many areas, from renting a home to finding a job.
Erfan is back in class, re-energized and taking university transfer courses in business administration at VCC and Langara College with plans to study commerce combined with business and computer science at the University of British Columbia's Sauder school of business.
Under the Canada-B.C. Immigration Agreement, ESL courses are being provided tuition-free to new immigrants, such as permanent residents. As well as ESL in 17 public post-secondary institutions, this includes WelcomeBC's English Language Services for Adults (ELSA) program in communities throughout the province.
The Province has recently extended this tuition-free policy to Canadian citizens at public post-secondary institutions, ensuring that they have access to the same opportunities as recent immigrants.
The Province has proclaimed April 29 to May 5, 2012, as "ESL Week" - to raise awareness of the needs of ESL students, recognize the contributions of ESL teachers and celebrate British Columbia's multicultural diversity.
Why It Matters:
With more than a million job openings expected in British Columbia in the next decade and only 650,000 students currently enrolled in the K-12 system, immigrants will play an important role in meeting the labour market demands of the future. Many newcomers to British Columbia require ESL courses to gain the English language skills they need to move on to higher levels of education and skills and trades training, fill high demand jobs, raise families and participate fully in their communities.
Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of Advanced Education -
"As we mark "ESL Week" in British Columbia, I want to recognize the efforts of the thousands of learners around the province who are working to improve their English language skills, and the teachers who are providing such excellent instruction and support."
"Our ESL programs ensure that immigrants who bring such diversity, skills and excellence to British Columbia have the opportunity to gain the language skills they need to fulfil their ambitions, enjoy life and contribute to the growth and prosperity of our province."
Erfan Mahdizadeh, completed the College Preparatory ESL program at Vancouver Community College -
"Language is a form of expression and without it, one would squander the opportunity of becoming a successful citizen. ESL training has opened doors for me. Now I can follow my dreams and have the opportunity to contribute my skills and knowledge to society."
Michael Galli, president of the Association of BC Teachers of English as an Additional Language (BC TEAL) -
"Acquiring a second language is one of the most challenging learning experiences any of us will face, especially when it is combined with immigrating or studying in a foreign country. ESL instructors' methodology and pedagogy helps accelerate students' learning processes. We teach English, but also provide a bridge for newcomers to transition into a new culture, one that is welcoming but also challenging to those unfamiliar with a multi-cultural community."
* For the 2010-11 academic year, 17 public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia delivered ESL training for more than 8,800 domestic students.
* The 2011 Developmental Student Outcomes Survey found that:
o 96 per cent of former ESL students said their ESL courses helped them achieve their most important goal.
o 95 per cent said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their ESL courses.
o 63 per cent were studying or had taken further studies since their ESL studies.
o 93 per cent of those who took further studies said they were very well or somewhat prepared by their ESL courses.
o 80 per cent of those who spoke English at work said their ESL training helped them use the language.
To view the Proclamation for ESL Week:
For information on ESL services in British Columbia: http://www.aved.gov.bc.ca/esl/welcome.htm
To find out about WelcomeBC programs including English Language Services for Adults (ELSA) for new immigrants: http://welcomebc.ca/wbc/immigration/settle/learn/index.page?WT.svl=LeftNav
To read about the Association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language: www.bcteal.org
To view the 2011 Developmental Student Outcomes Survey: http://outcomes.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/DEVSO/Publications.aspx
To learn more about ESL programs at Vancouver Community College: http://www.vcc.ca/programs-courses/detail.cfm?div_id=5&prog_id=65
Ministry of Advanced Education