An Indigenous literacy program, Literacy for Life, led by local Aboriginal leaders and their organisations and delivered in community by community members, is being celebrated during Adult Learners’ Week for demonstrating the effectiveness of community based education according to Jenny Macaffer, CEO of Adult Learning Australia.
Based on a model known as ‘Yes, I Can!’, originally developed in Cuba, Literacy for Life has run in five Western New South Wales communities, with a completion rate of over 65%. This is five times higher than Indigenous student completion rates for formal, accredited Foundation Skills courses run through the national vocational education and training (VET) system, which aims to get students to a similar level on the Australian Core Skills Framework.
Adult Learning Australia’s Jenny Macaffer says that Australia’s adult and community education (ACE) sector plays a vital role for all Australians.
‘From improving levels of adult literacy and numeracy to 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, the adult and community education sector provides an avenue through which all Australians can rediscover and re-engage in education,’ says Ms Macaffer.
“In My Own Words”, a powerful documentary that tells the story of the impact of the Literacy for Life program in the rural NSW community of Brewarrina, is being screened for parliamentarians at Parliament House, Canberra, to mark Adult Learners’ Week, which runs from the 1st to 8th September.
‘During Adult Learners’ Week we are asking all Australians to take the leap and rediscover learning, whatever stage of life they are at,’ says Ms Macaffer.
Tony Dreise, Indigenous Education Scholar at the Australian National University and former Board Member of Adult Learning Australia, says that while telling the personal stories of Brewarrina community members, the film demonstrates many of the key strengths of Australia’s adult and community education sector.
‘Community based education can provide a culturally safe place and alternative learning pathway for people who need to, or choose to, learn in a different way outside what are seen as established educational institutions.
‘Aboriginal societies have always had a lifelong learning culture. Programs such as the one in Brewarrina are about reigniting learning flames. Adult and community education also has the potential in supporting adults to learn with their children. Let’s remember that parents are the first teachers of children. Given the Indigenous population is young and growing fast, it is important to invest in lifelong and lifewide learning cultures in communities,’ says Mr Dreise.
Jenny Macaffer says that uniquely among learning environments in Australia the adult and community education sector is accessible to all, from mature age Australians wishing to continue learning in a supported environment to young people, mid life retrainees, people with a disability or those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
‘It provides learning opportunities, whether for whether for personal fulfilment, attaining essential life skills or retraining, whatever stage of life people are at.
‘Adult Learners’ Week really is the ideal time to explore the numerous educational and personal interest learning alternatives provided by adult and community education centres, Neighbourhood Houses, libraries and local councils throughout the country with events, information seminars and practical demonstrations taking place during the first week of September,’ says Ms Macaffer.
Visit www.adultlearnersweek.org, call 1300 I LEARN (1300 453 276) or search @adultlearnerswk on Facebook to find out more about Adult Learners' Week events and rediscovering learning in your neighbourhood.
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.