Adult and community education (ACE) is providing a much needed safety net and pathway to lifelong learning for the 20% of young men and 13% of young women who have not completed year 12 or a vocational equivalent according to the CEO of a peak learning body speaking on the twentieth anniversary of Adult Learners’ Week in Australia.
Stephen Dunn, CEO of Adult Learning Australia, says young people who take part in adult and community education programs say they are attracted by the quality of relationships between staff and students, flexibility in the mode of delivery and opportunities for personal autonomy.
“For many young Australians adult and community education provides an avenue through which they can re-engage in education.
“An important role of the ACE sector is catering to the needs of people who do not complete school, many of whom live in regional or remote areas, areas of socio-economic advantage or are from Indigenous backgrounds. These young people are often labelled as ‘disengaged youth’, when in reality they are highly engaged, just not with school. I prefer to look at them as ‘learning resisters’, who can be transformed into lifelong learners through the alternative educational environment ACE provides,” says Mr Dunn.
‘Unlocking learning. Lifelong learning for everyone’ is the theme for Australia’s twentieth Adult Learners’ Week which takes place from the 1 - 8 of September.
“I don’t think it is overstating the case to recognise the adult and community education sector as one of our national treasures,” says Stephen Dunn. “Looking back over the twenty year history of Adult Learners’ Week in Australia, it is clear that this annual event has inspired more people to take up learning.”
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Assistant Minister for Education and Training, says the role that the ACE sector fulfils should be celebrated during Adult Learners’ Week.
“Adult and community education plays an important role in reducing the risk of long-term unemployment for many young people. It also provides learning, whether for personal fulfilment or retraining, for all Australians, whatever stage of life they are at. Learning is one way of increasing people’s capacity to work by providing the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to successfully enter, remain in or return to work,” says Senator Birmingham.
Twenty year old Rosie Berenyi-Mansell who took part in Stepping Stones, a preparatory program for the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning at Daylesford Neighbourhood House, recognises the role adult and community education has played in her learning journey.
“Having been home schooled until I was 14, followed by Stepping Stones, and then attending my local high school, I was shocked by the contrast. Many kids, often those who are considered to rowdy or immature for school, find success in an adult learning environment. School is very stressful for many young people, but when you take those stresses away, you unlock people’s potential to learn,” says Rosie.
Rosie has since gone on to complete a business qualification as part of a traineeship, also at Daylesford Neighbourhood House.
Uniquely among learning environments in Australia, the adult and community education sector is accessible to all – from mature Australians wishing to continue learning in a supported environment to young people, mid-life re-trainees, people with a disability or those from culturally linguistic and diverse backgrounds.
“We know from Australian Bureau of Statistics research that around eight million working age Australians undertake some form of adult education for work or fun each year. Adult Learners’ Week is really a celebration of this fact, of the dynamic personal, social and professional benefits of adults learning,” says Mr Dunn.
Adult Learners’ Week is the ideal time for all Australians to explore the numerous educational alternatives on offer with events, information seminars and practical demonstrations taking place around the country during the first week of September.
Adult Learning Australia
Adult Learning Australia (ALA) is the national peak body for the Adult and Community Education field/s. We are a not-for-profit entity with both organisational and individual members in all States and Territories who reflect the diversity of adult and community education.
Our vision is for Lifelong and Lifewide learning for all. By “Lifelong Learning” we mean learning beyond school throughout the adult years via the formal education system, in workplaces and through community participation. By “Lifewide Learning” we mean developing the skills and knowledge required to engage in meaningful work, to participate fully as a citizen in a vibrant democracy, to live in harmony in a diverse, multi-cultural and rapidly changing society and to manage ones health and personal wellbeing, particularly in the senior years.