Nfld. & Labrador

Gerry Byrne wants to bring adult basic education back to CNA

Minister Gerry Byrne is looking to bring adult basic education program back to CNA.

Despite recent program, administrative cuts, minister says it's not all bad news for CNA

Minister Gerry Byrne is pushing to bring back the College of the North Atlantic's adult basic education program. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

The minister of advanced education, skills and labour says it was a mistake to cut the College of the North Atlantic's adult basic education (ABE) program — and his department is seriously considering bringing it back. 

Minister Gerry Byrne says Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province in the country that doesn't offer adult basic education in the public college system.

"I said a year ago that the decision back in 2013 to eliminate ABE from the college could not be supported by any evidence, financial or administrative. The numbers that were cited by the government of the day could not be verified," he said. 

Byrne's comments come just days after similar sentiments from the head of the province's largest union.
The decision to cut the College of the North Atlantic's Adult Basic Education program came in 2013. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"Privatization of ABE is clearly a failed experiment which has had a profoundly negative impact on students who are simply trying to further their education to better themselves with the goal of improving their lot in life," Jerry Earle, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, said in a statement on the union's webpage last week.

"If the province is serious about improving educational outcomes and reducing student debt, they would immediately begin the process of reinstating the ABE program at our public college," Earle continued.

"That would be a modernization plan we could get behind."

It makes very strong financial sense.- Gerry Bryne

While critical of the government's lack of transparency with current layoffs at the college, NDP leader Earl McCurdy said consideration of the program's return is an "excellent idea."

The ABE program — which was offered at 12 campuses across the province and gave adults the chance to complete their high school education — was privatized back in 2014 in response to budget cuts.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy says bringing the program back to CNA is an excellent idea. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

In addition to the ABE program, Byrne said he is also eager to explore the potential of distance education programming for students. He adds this would be supplemented by on-campus educational and student support services.

"Through the use of distance education technology, the college could potentially offer a lot larger number of programs in some of the smallest campuses," said Byrne.

"That's how you could expand the number of programs being offered."

'Sky's the limit'

It's an idea that would see distance education students blended into a larger network of students. 

"Having a campus, having students come to campus, participate in a distance learning environment but still having supports and services on campus really make for great student success. It's a model I'm keenly interested in pursuing with the College of the North Atlantic," Byrne said.

"It makes very strong financial sense, administrative sense and is in keeping with good academic sense. With the improvements through distance learning, the sky's the limit."

With files from Terry Roberts