Adult Education and poverty: Breaking down socio-economic barriers

Posted on October 1st, 2020

adult education support for learners

Barriers to adult education

  • In the UK, around 8.3 million working-age adults, or roughly 20 per cent of 16 to 64-year-olds, are in poverty and do not have the material resources available to meet their current needs.
    (Social Metrics Commission, 2019)

We cannot ignore the needs of disadvantaged adults in education. Poverty is a vicious cycle, and research shows that, “children living in poverty often have worse health, start school behind their peers developmentally, and do less well once they get there.” (Social Mobility Commission, 2019)

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that children are directly affected by their parents’ level of education, and “There is a strong association between parents’ levels of literacy and numeracy and the cognitive outcomes of young children, even when other factors are taken into account.” (Nat. Inst. of Adult Continuing Education, 2019)

We know that poverty disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable groups in our communities, which includes those with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD).

Around 65 per cent of adults with learning disabilities would like a paid job. (Her Majesty’s Government, 2009)

Yet, in 2017-18, just 6 per cent of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England were in paid employment (NHS Digital, 2018) – this number was 4.2 per cent in Scotland. (Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, 2018)

The gap in these figures represents an enormous waste of talent and opportunity for adults with LDD, employers and our wider economy and society.

Providing learning opportunities for adults will have a direct, positive impact on the economy and levels of social mobility.

We need to make adult education more accessible, providing flexible learning to a broader cohort of adults.

Educators need to ensure they are identifying adults with hidden learning needs early on in the learner’s journey, as this can have a measurable impact on their retention and achievement rates. Giving learners a better learning experience encourages them to seek further training and career opportunities, which could be life-changing for that individual.

Take action in adult education

  • Education reduces poverty. It increases the amount a person can earn, reduces inequality and stimulates economic growth. (Van de Berg, Servaas, 2008)

The best news is that educating adults also improves learning and life outcomes for children in poverty, “Children and adults learning together, for example, can contribute to children’s resilience and communication skills, and can help to reduce children’s psychological and behavioural disorders.

The acquisition of skills by parents can also help children’s performance at school.” (Nat. Inst. of Adult Continuing Education, 2019)

Raising awareness of the benefits of lifelong learning is a long-term but worthwhile endeavour for all of us in the education sector.

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Posted on October 1st, 2020
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