Sir Alan Tuckett, the Vice Chair of the Centenary Committee on adult education, recently reported on his feelings about adult education and how opportunities for adults have decreased. The Centenary Committee has formed to revisit the need for adult education, much in the same way that the Ministry of Reconstruction’s 1919 Report aimed to state the reasons why adult education was an essential tool for individuals, companies and society as a whole.
In 2015, the UN pledged to commit to lifelong learning and to ensure that ‘no one Is left behind’. Following that, the World Economic Forum, the OECD and UNESCO agreed that the continual development of lifelong learning is crucial if people are to face the challenges of the future, including: the use of artificial intelligence; problems created by a changing climate; and an ageing society.
People with a wider skill set are better able to face problems and countries that do embrace a high level of adult education enjoy various benefits. These include improved mental and physical health for citizens, more independence in old age and more respect for diversity in society. Despite these benefits, there has been a reduction of two million places in publicly funded further education for adults. To add to this, unlike the majority of our European neighbours, British employers have reduced their spending on training following the financial crash.
The 1919 Report argued that adult education was necessary in order to achieve an enlightened democracy and that the ability to partake in such education should not be viewed as a luxury. It also suggested that teachers and learners should have more power to decide what should be included in the curriculum, rather than leaving the decision to national and municipal planners. The Centenary Committee maintains this view and believes in the importance of adopting a culture where learners will have a strong role in determining the direction that learning takes, as well as taking into consideration best practice and what can be learned from it.