Canada's GED high school equivalency test ends after March, leaving adult students in limbo

Brandon Berghegen, Gail Feliciant and Kasey Jamieson, left to right, applied to take their GED high school equivalency tests this year. After the end of March, the program is ending in Canada. (Submitted by Brandon Berghegen, Gail Feliciant and Kasey Jamieson - image credit)
Brandon Berghegen, Gail Feliciant and Kasey Jamieson, left to right, applied to take their GED high school equivalency tests this year. After the end of March, the program is ending in Canada. (Submitted by Brandon Berghegen, Gail Feliciant and Kasey Jamieson - image credit)

For weeks, Gail Feliciant has been trying to book a General Educational Development (GED) test but hasn't heard back from schedulers.

The 62-year-old from Burlington, Ont., said she's seeking the GED to get the certificate — an equivalent to a high school diploma — to gain more opportunity to work before retirement age.

She said she registered before the Jan. 31 deadline and still has hope she'll be able to schedule it before March 31, the deadline set by province, but there isn't much time left.

Pearson Vue GED Testing Service, the company behind the test, is ending service in Canada after this month.

"It's ludicrous," Feliciant said about the program ending and the tight deadline.

When the end of the program was announced last year, provinces were left to find their own solutions.

In the meantime, people who miss the deadline to schedule a test this year won't get another chance — and without any alternative right now in some provinces, such as Ontario, adults wanting to get the equivalent to a high school diploma will face barriers.

"We were completely blindsided by that, as were our students … this is just another roadblock for them," said Steven Lobodici, a professor and assessor at Mohawk College, adding he first learned of the change in August 2023.

The college is one of many learning centres that offers programs to help students prepare for the GED.

"People have reorganized their entire lives to pursue [a GED] … and then one day in August we let them know, 'You've got four months to get yourselves organized and if you do not write and pass this test by that date, all those efforts have been a waste.' "

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Devon Acker, an academic instructor at Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre (OSTTC) in Six Nations of the Grand River, said people who don't make it into this cohort will be "in limbo."

"It's almost unbelievable to me they don't have a pathway put in place to service those people."

Why people take the GED

The GED test is important for all sorts of reasons, Lobodici said.

People may complete it for personal accomplishment, to be a role model for others such as their children, to find work or do apprenticeships, or may need it for certain college programs.

Kasey Jamieson, 27, is from Six Nations and studies at OSTTC.

She said she dropped out of high school in Grade 9 before dealing with addiction issues, but has been sober for years and wants a GED to get a job helping others living with addiction. She is set to take the test at the end of this month.

"The second time around has been such an eye-opener for me," Jamieson said. "Education is everything."

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Brandon Berghegen, 37, of Hamilton sought a GED through Mohawk College and recently passed the test.

He said he dropped out of high school in Grade 10 to enter the workforce early, but as a father of three, he decided to get the certificate to inspire his kids to stay in school.

"I don't want them to veer off the path and drop out," he said, adding one of his children just graduated from high school.

Alternative to GED sorely needed: instructors

Jamieson said she was "so sad" to hear the GED is ending.

"I know there's so many people who want an education and are striving to do better."

Lobodici said there's currently "no adequate replacement" for the GED.

He mentioned the Canadian Adult Education Credential (CAEC), which is still in development in Alberta. He also noted there's an Academic and Career Entrance (ACE) certificate, but it isn't widely recognized across the country.

Acker said that without the GED, "a lot of students fall through the cracks," and said other programs to advance education also don't have the same supports in place.

Lobodici said that without a GED replacement soon, employers who need workers will be impacted.

Keith Burgess/CBC
Keith Burgess/CBC

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce told reporters on Thursday the province is looking to Alberta to build out a program — possibly a reference to the CAEC, though he didn't name it.

He said Ontario is "taking initiative" in ensuring there's "seamless completion," but there's "more work to do on this for sure."

"Be assured we'll be bringing forth an updated version that reflects the needs of the economy and obviously our students."

Lobodici said provincial governments would need to adopt the CAEC once it's in place and other stakeholders — like employers, people in charge of apprenticeships and post-secondary institutions — would need to recognize it.

"And that has not been a conversation I've heard of," he said.

A looming deadline

Feliciant said she has performed well in her training courses at Mohawk College, but hasn't heard from TVO ILC, Ontario's sole GED provider, to book her test.

The organization also only has a one-hour window —  from 1 to 2 p.m. — for people to call in.

Lobodici believes TVO ILC doesn't have the resources to manage a flood of students trying to contact them about their GED.

CBC contacted TVO ILC for more details but didn't immediately receive a response.

Feliciant said if she can't book her GED, she'll have to spend a few years to complete ACE, but that would mean less time being able to work as a carpenter — her ultimate goal.

"I'm angry," she said.

Lobodici said the province needs a replacement soon because the traditional education pathway doesn't work for everyone.

"For a lot of students, this may be the last straw for them in trying … to take that pathway."