CR&DALL Director Responds to Scotland's 'Statement of Ambition' for Adult Learning


Please find attached a response from Professor Mike Osborne, Director of CR&DALL, to the publication of Adult Learning in Scotland – Statement of Ambition.  This is a fully referenced version of an article entitled A Sense of Place, published in the July 2014 edition of Adults Learning (pp.29-31).

The article begins:

It would be difficult to argue against the statement of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Mike Russell, in his forward that everyone in the country should have the ‘right to access high quality learning to meet their needs and aspirations – throughout their lives’. The notion that adult learning should be life-long and life-wide, and that it should be learner-centred and informed by the interests and motives of learners has been core to thinking within the field for many decades

For more please see the attachment.

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Discussion topics: 

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Statement of Ambition for Adult Learning

Great. I like the way in your reponse, Mike, you have asked the Scottish Government to 'put their money where their mouth is' for adult education and also pointed out the lack of HE presence in discussion and decision-making.

Although the extra-mural element has declined, with the commitment in the Statement to 'Effective adult learning' and  to 'Ensure high quality training and CPD opportunities for practitioners and community planning partnerships' there is a greater need for adult educators who understand the theory and practice of teaching and learning and HE has a crucial role to play. The Statement provides us with a useful further avenue for promoting our excellent adult education programmes.


Statement of Ambition for Adult Learning

I very much enjoyed the response and Lesley Doyle's comment above. As a lecturer with 10 years’ experience in a ‘modern’ university setting in the south of England, I could not agree more with the evidence-based sentiments of Mike Osborne presented above. Firstly, from my brief time living in Scotland, I would have to strongly agree with the notion that Scotland is doing far more to value and preserve the engagement of adult learners than their English counterparts. Secondly, I would have to also agree with the notion that much of the present education policy has lost its ‘adult-friendly’ component that seemed so strong in the 90s (when I first arrived in England). Over the last 10 years I have watched my own student demographic change dramatically, with the elimination of access programmes and mature student applications and acceptances dwindling from the majority in many of my courses, to a marginal minority in most of my courses. I am glad to see that the (re)valuing of adult learning, and implementing the priorities of ‘learning cities’, is alive and well at least in some areas of Scotland. I hope that both the Minister and Mike Osborne are correct that this will only continue to grow, which I agree can only happen with strong involvement from the HE sector.

Statement of Ambition for Adult Learning

In welcoming Mike Osborne's comprehensive approach to these matters from a predominantly Scottish perspective, I am reminded that the contribution of adult education participation to better health was noted somewhat further back than his references. The NIACE Special Needs Advisory Committee was already involved in advocacy for stronger links between health providers and community adult learning organisations during the 1980s. Nor was the NHS entirely blind to these possibilities, as a number of jointly financed initiatives at the time bore witness. I imagine that, with powerful advocates in the adult education community of Scotland, there will be opportunities to present a counterpart Statement of Ambition to that of the Cabinet Secretary, drawing attention to the multiple benefits that derive from work from within the Lifelong Learning Sector. Having heard Mike Russell speak during May's 'International Learning Times' event, I would hope that he might be receptive to such further evidence.