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International Week For Adult Learners 2002

5 September 2002

International Week For Adult Learners 2002 National Award And Book Launch

The International Week for Adult Learners 2002 was launched today by Associate Education Minister Hon Marian Hobbs, with the presentation of a National Award for services to adult learning to Wellington consultant and facilitator Mary-Jane Rivers, and the launch of Life is ACE! Changing Lives and Communities, a book profiling almost 20 adult learners throughout New Zealand, published by the Ministry of Education.

The International Week for Adult Learners He Tangata Matauranga (Sept 2-8), is an UNESCO initiative. It is designed to celebrate the efforts and achievements of adult learners, teachers and providers. It also aims to encourage more adults to access the many learning opportunities available in their communities, and to foster communication among those involved in adult learning.

Dorothy McGray, Chair of the Ministry of Education’s Reference Group on Adult and Community Education and a member of UNESCO New Zealand’s Education Sub Commission said there is much to celebrate after a year of positive change.

“For many years, adult community learning was referred to as the forgotten fourth sector because in relation to other sectors of education we were unrecognised and under-resourced,” she said.

“But a lot of work has gone on over the past two years, much of it led by Mary-Jane Rivers, and in May, the Government launched a new tertiary education strategy in which adult community learning plays a key role,” Ms McGray said.

“The National Award going to Mary-Jane is a fitting tribute to her outstanding work,” Ms McGray said.

The publication of Life is ACE! Changing Lives and Communities to promote adult education was also a measure of the new importance now placed on adult learning.

“Adult and community education has become central to achieving the Government’s strategy for a Knowledge Society,” said Ms McGray.

“There is no point in promoting a ‘Knowledge Society’ if there are not pathways to it for all, and there is no point in having a learning society if lifelong learning cannot be a reality for everyone.”

Mary-Jane Rivers has worked for more than 20 years in community development, community learning and change management. She played a key role in the establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the first Social Impact Development Group. She was nominated for this award for her role as chair of the Adult Education and Community Learning Working Party, which was convened in October 2000. The leadership, dedication and commitment she applied to her role were critical in revitalising what had been a neglected sector of the New Zealand education system.

During the seven months that the working party met, and for many more months until the report was published and Cabinet made known its decision to accept all of the report’s key recommendations, Mary-Jane crusaded to raise the profile of adult and community education. She did this by taking - and making - every opportunity to speak with Ministry of Education officials, key people in other government departments, MPs and Ministers and others within the ACE sector.

Without Mary-Jane, “Koia! Koia!”, the working party report and its recommendations, may well have been lost. Instead, her efforts have seen tangible results. The ACE Reference Group, which has begun implementation of the report’s recommendations, operates in a more appreciative and informed environment. The Ministry of Education has established an adult and community education unit, and appointed a chief adviser to the unit. The adult and community education sector will also be part of the planned Tertiary Education Commission, alongside the universities and polytechnics.

Secretary for the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, Elizabeth Rose, said that although many thousands of New Zealanders and others around the world are involved in adult and community education, it is still a relatively low profile sector of the education system. It’s hoped the International Week for Adult Learners will make more people aware of the fun and importance of life-long learning. ‘Education for All’ is a central tenet of UNESCO’s education programme.

Over the next few days there will be ceremonies in towns and cities throughout the country as local awards are presented to outstanding adult learners and educators in recognition of their achievements.

Life is ACE! Changing Lives and Communities is available from the Ministry of Education, or email

Journalists are invited to attend the launch of UN Adult Learners Week on Thursday, 5 September at the Beehive Foyer, Parliament Buildings, at 5.30pm. Refreshments will be provided.

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