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Adult And Community Education Assn - Hobbs Speech

23 June 2001 Hon Marion Hobbs Speech Notes

Adult And Community Education Association,Taylors Restaurant And Function Centre, Te Awamutu, Sat June 23, 3.30pm

 Thanks for invitation. These are exciting times for adult and community education in this country, and I am delighted to be here today to participate in your conference.

 As an umbrella organisation with significant membership (around 200 individuals and organisations and over 500 on the newsletter mailing list), ACEA plays an important part in the adult and community education sector in this country. I note your goals include:

 to ensure access to adult and community education for marginalised individuals and groups;
 to secure statutory recognition for adult and community education;
 to develop networks for the communication, support and dissemination of information;
 to work towards adequate, equitable and secure funding mechanisms with effective accountability procedures;
 to develop and maintain a strong research tradition; and
 to provide adult and community education with opportunities for professional development.

 To work for the creation of a learning society founded on:
- effective partnerships between formal and non-formal systems;
- recognition and resourcing by central and local Governments;
- principles of innovation, creativity and flexibility; and
- commitment to social justice and civic well being.

 I'm pleased that ACEA’s goals are so aligned with what the Government is seeking to achieve, or should I say, the government is lined up with ACEA, not just within adult and community education in this country, but also within the wider tertiary education system.

 This Government is seeking a more collaborative and co-operative tertiary education system – in all its diversity – in which a sense of partnership exists between the key contributors, and an environment where participation by all is encouraged.

 In April last year we appointed the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) to help develop a strategic direction for tertiary education in this country that is consistent with this vision. In working towards this, the Commission is producing a series of reports on various aspects of the sector. The Commission’s initial report, Shaping a Shared Vision, has been followed by Shaping the System. This second report sets out new directions for the tertiary education sector, and proposes mechanisms, policy instruments and structures that will allow the tertiary education system to be ‘steered’ more effectively.

 TEAC’s Terms of Reference recognised that in order to carry out its work effectively the Commission would need to work in partnership with all those who play a part in the system. The tertiary education system has an important role in contributing to New Zealand’s wider economic and social goals by creating wealth, contributing to our sense of national identity, and developing the skills and knowledge necessary to support a knowledge society. It is, therefore, in everyone’s interests that we have a strong, innovative tertiary education system providing quality teaching, learning and research.

 In undertaking its work, the Commission is drawing on the expertise, experience and ideas of key stakeholders and decision makers including community groups, Mäori, the tertiary, research and business sectors, and government agencies.

 Our concept of tertiary education has to be an inclusive one. The transition to a knowledge-based or learning society makes it increasingly important for individuals to engage in lifelong learning. Adult and community education is being recognised finally as a crucial part of the system necessary to deliver on this.

 The adult and community education sector has a significant role to play in the 21st century in fostering individual and community development and in providing pathways into further lifelong learning. Adult and community education can make an important contribution to meeting government’s broad educational and social objectives. It can do this both by responding to the educational needs of individuals who have not successfully participated in secondary or tertiary education, and by supporting social cohesion and a civil society.

 For me, one of the most important attributes that adult and community education brings to the total education community is its flexibility and responsiveness to the constantly changing needs of our society. You move to fill in gaps, to meet needs – and you have done it from love, awareness and closeness to the community.

 TEAC is committed to providing a means for the recognition of the important role played by adult and community education and, to this end, it has proposed a functional classification of “community education and training”.

 This would make it possible for the regulatory and funding system to recognise that community education is focussed on developing communities and people. It will also assist in identifying community education activities that occur within different types of providers and institutions, and in linking them across the tertiary education system.

 To understand how we can strengthen and support the adult and community education sector to make an effective contribution to these education goals, we need to understand well the sector and its distinctive characteristics; and I'm sorry if I'm describing what you already know, but it bears repeating and emphasising.

 Adult and community education may be defined as a process whereby adults participate in a range of educational activities within the community. Adult and community education occurs alongside the formal education system and is accessible to all. Adult and community education is:
- open to all learners;
- flexible and capable of responding to the individual or group learning needs of participants;
- not necessarily formally assessed or certificated, but still achieves measurable learning gains which can be formally recognised if the learner wishes;
- promotes both personal development and community benefit;
- responds to everyday issues by providing learning opportunities and delivery of programmes by community-based organisations.

 Adult and community education has the flexibility and the philosophy, which makes it ideally placed to respond to the specific needs of people who require tailored programmes. The nature of adult and community education makes it well suited to deliver effective programmes in adult literacy, and for ESOL provision for example, and learners will often move on to more formal learning programmes after participating in community education programmes in these fields.

 Education providers within the sector include:
- community groups (such as Te Atärangi, WEA, Te Waka Pu Whenua etc);
- Rural Education Activities Programmes (REAPs);
- schools (mainly secondary) including the Correspondence School;
- polytechnics; and
- universities.

 Key to adult and community education is the learner, of whom there are more than 250,000. These learners participate through:
- School based programmes – learners are mainly European women between 25 and 44 years; and
- Community based programmes – learners are less likely to be well educated, likely to include more Mäori, Pacific or new settlers.

 In its policy document, Pathways and Networks, the Government has made a commitment to adult and community education. This commitment is to formally recognise and support this sector, which in the past has suffered from ad hoc decisions, uncertainty and inadequate funding. One of the promises made in Pathways and Networks was that a short term Working Group would be established to prepare an action blue print to put in place a comprehensive policy for adult and community education.

 True to our word, we established the Adult Education and Community Learning Working Group in August 2000 to provide advice to the Associate Minister of Education (Adult and Community Education) on a new policy and funding framework for this sector.

 The 13 members of the Working Group, representatives of the sector, were tasked to:
 define objectives;
 address accountability and quality assurance aspects; and
 identify:
- priorities for action
- means to ensure effective local input to planning and delivery
- roles and responsibilities of national organisations
- effective partnerships between providers and
- greater credibility for the non-formal sector.

 This was obviously no mean feat, and my use of the past tense here may give you some clue as to my delight at recently receiving the Working Group’s report, Towards a Learning Society: The Role of Adult and Community Education. At this point I would like to congratulate all of the members of the Working Group, and the wider adult and community education sector, for the part they have played in producing this document. This has been a huge task, and perhaps the saying that many hands make light work is not always true! It is true, however, that the experience and expertise of the Group’s members has led to the report being informed by a great deal of valuable discussion and consultation throughout the sector and across the country.

 In total there were 82 submissions to the Working Group, from a wide range of organisations – schools, universities, polytechnics, community organisations – as well as from individuals.

 These submissions provided a very useful basis for the Working Group to develop their conclusions. In general, they had several common themes including:
- recognising the role of adult and community education in providing opportunities for those who have not succeeded in more formal education, and in supporting communities in meeting their goals and aspirations;
- the need to raise the profile and performance of the sector, and to formalise its role in the national educational structure;
- that ACE should focus more on meeting the needs of disadvantaged groups; and
- that quality and capability issues in the sector need to addressed, and supported.

 At this stage, I can only speak relatively generally about the Working Group’s report, as it has yet to be discussed by Cabinet. I welcome the report as a statement from the adult and community education sector which recognises the need for the sector to:
- change to address challenges;
- focus more on achieving government and community education goals;
- meet the needs of those with poor educational qualifications and those who are under-represented in tertiary education; and
- develop effective ways of assessing and ensuring quality provision.

 The Working Group notes that in other OECD countries adult and community education (ACE) receives considerable attention, and is recognised as an important part of lifelong learning, which produces considerable short, medium and long term benefits to individual learners and to communities.
 In the past in New Zealand, ACE has been poorly resourced, and suffered from a lack of internal coherence, and a lack of government policy support. As a result the sector has been unable to live up to its potential of making an effective contribution to educational social and economic goals and community development. But, although it has not met its potential, it has already made a significant contribution to the forgotten areas – adult literacy/ESOL.
 There needs to be a more strategic focus from authorities on the contribution which adult and community education could be making to the achievement of broad education goals such as:
- increasing participation in tertiary education, particularly for currently under-represented groups;
- raising student achievement;
- improving the quality of providers, teaching and learning;
- improving Mäori education; and
- engaging families and communities more strongly in education.

 Many of the Working Group’s proposals provide ways to improve the integration and focus of the sector, means for prioritising resources, better quality assurance, stronger support for Mäori ACE, and better links to the rest of tertiary education. They provide a good framework for improving the contribution which ACE makes to education and social outcomes.
 For example, the report notes the need to improve Mäori development through adult and community education and increase Mäori participation and provision through the development of ACE pathways for Mäori, the co-ordination of ACE with other Maori educational and social health initiatives, improved monitoring of ACE delivery to Mäori, and means of measuring ACE outcomes by Mäori for Mäori.
 The Working Group recommends:
- that there be a planned and co-ordinated approach to the professional development of ACE practitioners to improve the quality of provision. The report identifies the need for improved staff training, the development of training needs analyses, training resources, with key input from the sector through an ACE professional development body; but from an ACE perspective – building on the open attitudes and skills.
- that there be improved local ACE networks to co-ordinate local demand and provision so that ACE can continue to respond effectively to community education needs;
- that national goals and strategies for ACE be developed from the local level up, to focus the sector more clearly on educational outcomes for the sector, and better monitoring and evaluation to improve quality and outcomes for learners;
- priorities for ACE funding being for programmes which meet the needs of identified priority groups, which foster social development, which meet local priorities, or which identify emerging needs and foster innovation;
- that there be more dedicated capacity for ACE in government policy and operations, and greater priority given to ACE work.

 Some proposals have wider implications which need to be carefully considered in the context of the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission, and the ongoing work of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission and its future reports.
 I expect further work on developing the Working Group’s recommendations to progress in parallel with TEAC work over the next few weeks and months. I will be discussing with my Cabinet colleagues shortly the best ways to progress this. We have already had a joint meeting of the five education ministers. We envisage a process of long term evolution and development in ACE. This will give us the opportunity to consider the best ways of building up the sector to ensure that it is effectively integrated into the broader tertiary education system.

 I aim to release the report as soon as we can get it printed, which is likely to be in a few weeks.

 ACE is now alive and well inside the Ministry, and I was thrilled to be given this sector to work with, taking up from the great work of Lianne Dalziel.

 We have some difficult paths to walk: --

We want to build a national network of local ACE's. For too long people have struggled unsupported.
But in building a structure we have to balance structure and flexibility.
We have to balance support and stifling.
We have to balance professional development and creative individual skills.

My commitment to you is, that as we work to build, to include, to recognise adult and community education, we will not lose the very special values that you as an education sector have successfully nurtured in the learning society.

Kia manawanui, kia kaha, nga hoa ma.

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