Challenges ahead for widening participation in adult learning Friday, May 11, 2012 - 07:30
Around 3 in 5 adults (62 per cent) have not participated in learning in the last 3 years and over one-third (36 per cent) have not participated at all since they left full-time education. These are the headline findings of the 2012 NIACE participation survey, published today ahead of Adult Learners' Week (12-18 May).
The annual survey, once again, clearly shows that participation in learning is determined by class, age, employment status and prior learning and attainment. The key findings are:
- Around 1 in 5 (19 per cent) adults are currently learning, and 2 in 5 (38 per cent) have participated in the last 3 years. This is a fall in participation of only 1 percentage points on 2011, but 5 percentage point since 2010 (43 per cent).
- As shown in all of the previous NIACE surveys, those in highest socio-economic classes are most likely to participate in learning (AB 49 per cent; C1 46 per cent; C2 34 per cent; DE 24 per cent). Since 2011, the decline among ABC1s is 2-3 percentage points, whilst participation among C2DEs has held up.
- The participation rates for those in employment (full-time 44 per cent; part time 42 per cent) or those looking for work (41 per cent) compares to just 1 in 4 (24 per cent) of those out of work but not looking and 14 per cent of retired people. Since last year there has been a slight decline (2-3 percentage points) in participation amongst the employed.
- Participation in learning continues to decline with age. For those aged 18-24 the proportion of those who have participated in learning in the last 3 years is 74 per cent; of those aged 25 - 49 it is 40 per cent; for 50 - 74 it is 26 per cent; and for those aged 75+ it is only 7 per cent.
- Those who stayed on in initial education are much more likely to participate in learning than those who left at the earliest opportunity. Around one half (49 per cent) of those who left full time education age 21+ are learning, compared with just 23 per cent of those who left school at or before 16.
- 41 per cent of people say they are likely to take up learning in the future; whereas 56 per cent say they are unlikely to do so.
David Hughes, NIACE Chief Executive, said:
"Participating in learning can help people secure work, stay and flourish in their jobs, keep healthy and play a positive role in their community. All of those are even more important now with a tough labour market, an ageing population and stressed communities. So it is disappointing that participation in learning is declining, with many of the people who could most benefit missing out. Our survey shows that you are much less likely to take part in learning if you are retired, or outside of the labour market, if you are in a low skilled job, or if you didn't do well in school. We know from this year's Adult Learners' Week award winners - like all previous winners - that when people are given the right opportunities then their lives really do change for the better. What's needed now is for policy-makers, providers, businesses, unions and charities to work together to encourage more people to take up learning."