This project starts from the observation that participation rates in Adult Learning and Education (ALE) have significantly declined over the past 15 years. This has caused significant concern to many stakeholders in the areas of economy, business, education and wider social policies. Apart from facilitating economic and societal benefits at a larger scale, research has also demonstrated individual benefits of learning in the areas of health and wellbeing. Within the UK, devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are in charge of education and training and design their own policies in finding answers to their own countries’ economic and societal needs; within England, adult learning has in some areas been devolved as part of regional government ‘settlements’.
More specifically this project notes that:
- Data on ALE are not routinely available in the four countries of the UK, especially not since devolved countries have decided not to participate in the upcoming OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC);
- Existing analyses of ALE data tend to be overly descriptive and do not engage with analysing trends over time and different data sources treat the measurement of participation differently;
- Studies have compared difference in ALE approaches across countries in Europe and tend to treat the UK as one entity. A comprehensive study comparing ALE data and policy approaches across the home nations of the UK is lacking from the knowledge base.
The main ambitions of this project are:
- to investigate the (lack of) consistency of the current statistical evidence base on ALE across the four countries of the UK and Ireland (which is included in an already existing ALE working group);
- to better understand the decline in participation against economic, societal and political changes in the past 25 years;
- to investigate convergence and divergence of ALE discourses between the devolved administrations of the UK with a specific focus on the role of evidence-based policy making.
ESRC PROJECT: ALE POLICIES
PROJECT TITLE: A UK-Ireland investigation into the statistical evidence-base underpinning adult learning and education policy-making.
PROJECT FUNDER: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – ES/X000826/1
PROJECT DURATION: 1 April 2023 – 31 March 2025