The History of the Canadian Language Benchmarks
In 1992 the Government of Canada undertook to enhance and support language training and to address the adult immigrant’s individual needs. Through the federal department now known as Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the government funded a project to develop national standards, beginning with consultations with experts in second language teaching and training, testing and measurement. The consultations confirmed that no one instrument, tool or set of “benchmarks” was widely used or appropriate to Canadian newcomers’ needs. Regional workshops with ESL/EFL practitioners and administrators, learners, immigrant serving agencies and government representatives explored the interest and affirmed the potential for the development of a set of Benchmarks.
In March 1993, CIC established the National Working Group on Language Benchmarks (NWGLB) to guide the development of the Benchmarks and in 1996 the first working copy of the Benchmarks was made available. The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB) sprang from a November 1996 conference that identified the need for an institution outside government to take responsibility for the Benchmark project.
The CCLB was created by CIC in 1998 in partnership with the provincial governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan to support and maintain the standard through a multi-stakeholder, nationally representative and inter-governmental board of directors. Now almost 10 years later, the CLB have been well established within the ESL community underlying both provincial and federal language training systems. The reality is that the CLB have truly become a common language for the entire immigrant-serving community. It is expected that, with the recent launch and implementation of the Niveaux de compétence linguistiques canadiens (NCLC), this will soon become a reality for the French benchmarks as well.
Further development of the 1996 Benchmark publication was undertaken and in the year 2000 the current version of the Benchmark document was published.
In 2002, the first version of French as a Second Language standards, based on the CLB, was created and titled Standards linguistiques canadiens 2002. Following feedback from the FSL community, Citizenship and Immigration Canada adapted this first version and renamed it Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens 2006.
In early 2010 CCLB wrapped up its National Consultation on the CLB 2000 and NCLC 2006. Over the course of this project CCLB organized consultations with various stakeholders across the country. This consultation has allowed the CCLB to gain insight into how the CLB and NCLC should evolve to meet needs of both existing and emerging groups. The consultation has also allowed the CCLB and stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the use of these standards and related tools and resources and to identify potential new uses for them.
Following up on the work done during the National Consultation, in early 2010 CCLB and CLB and NCLC experts began revisions to the two documents.