Don’t we have a Law on Access to Information (ATI) in Canada?

by Lyne des Roberts alias La Dame dragon

I usually do not write that often… mainly because I have so little time to myself, spending hours on the road going from one client to another. But, today, I have a break (sort of!) since Jenn and Dave are writing their SLE test. I am kind of hyper, waiting for them to update me on how they did… so I decided to keep my mind busy and focus on something else. Hopefully, this way, time will fly and I will worry less!

What will happen if they fail? Well… they will not have any other choice than going back to be re-tested in one month! In the meanwhile their training contract will be extended (something that rejoices the Language Schools!)… I have seen people spending almost two years away from their jobs in full time training: enough to discourage even the bravest warrior!

Here is how the system works… three or seven days after civil servants have been tested (writing and reading), they receive an official letter with their marks (e.g. 49/65) and the level they obtained (B). If the latter is not the one required for their job position, they are invited to apply for another testing date (it may take more than a month, depending on the monthly date tests are updated: they cannot re-write the same tests). At no time, they can refer to the tests they wrote and there is no document of any kind to give them feedback. Consequently they are in the dark, as well as the individuals in charge of their training. For some inexplicable reasons, those tests are unavailable (even under the Law on ATI) as if they were classified TOP SECRET although they do not content any threat to national security!

On the other hand, there is no such fuss regarding access to tapes. When they are assessed on their oral skills, the whole interview is recorded on tape. When they get their results, if they ever failed, they receive a document pointing out their weaknesses so they know exactly what to focus and work on to make sure they will pass next time. If they wish, they can book an appointment with their trainer/teacher and, together, they can listen to the tape and “see” where the interview went wrong. They are not allowed to take notes but, at least, they know what they have to improve in order to achieve their level.

I do not see why something similar could not be arranged for those who wish to learn from their mistakes in previous writing/reading exams. Of course, I am not suggesting that they get their copies back! This would degenerate into the biggest smuggling in the History of Canada! I just can imagine government employees distributing (or even selling) copies of those tests to the ones scheduled to write within the same month! Although I am not convinced it would help since no one can memorize 65 questions and long texts… yet it would give a pretty good idea on the type of questions asked!

Actually, access to their tests could follow the same procedure as access to their tapes… People could request an appointment with their trainer/teacher and sit in a room with plenty of time to go through the whole tests. It would definitely ease the training process and… the pain! But it seems nobody cares! The Government certainly does not… the civil servants adopted the attitude of defeatism and… the schools? They are not interested in accelerating the process because they are in this business for the $$$… More often their students fail, longer the contracts are… they have no interest in blowing the whistle and seeing their profits decrease! I do think differently… I do not run a school, I do not make my living based upon volume… I built my professional reputation on quality and results… and anything that could help me to target specific needs for a specific goal would be more than appreciated!

I think I do know why access to their tests is denied… first because I suspect no one ever really asked for such access. Unless hundreds (or perhaps even thousands) of civil servants push the issue, I do not believe anyone else has interest to make those tests available. Those who design the tests would not want people starting to file grievances or ask for a review of their tests because they found mistakes : imagine someone like Jenn (and many others) who missed her level by 2 answers having access to her test… based upon the previous tests content, we assume there are potentially enough mistakes (I included some in my post A Breath-taking Plunge into Hades) for her to be able to have her results modified! Such access could provoke unwanted reactions among civil servants, but also among the Public… nothing like this stays secret for very long and, then, the Press would make sure every single Canadian who pays income tax is fully aware… after all, who is paying for this massive training?… No Governement (previous, present or future) would want such a far-reaching possible scandal… Let’s be realistic here: not all Canadians agree on the Official Languages Law and Policies… something like that would only give them ammunition…

But… whatever the reason is, under the Law on the Access to Information, every single civil servant who fails SLE tests has the right to ask! The question is: who will be brave enough to ask first???…

This blog moved here, if you ever are interested in reading more on those issues…