A message from the CEO

ALA’s policy platform identifies 6 key advocacy areas. These 6 areas reflect not only the core educational values identified by our members but also what we see as the most pressing public policy needs in the Adult and Community Education space.

This edition of Quest includes articles on three of these. The first of these is learning for civic participation. This edition features interviews with Australian experts on the relationship between learning, civic participation and the health of our democracy. Politically this is a challenging issue to sell in Australia and with the notable exception of local government, is poorly understood and funded.

We know, for example, from the 1995 International Adult Literacy Survey, that there is a correlation between higher levels of literacy and participation in voluntary community activities. Also that countries with higher average scores on the prose scale have a greater share of their parliamentary seats held by women. (OECD, Highlights, 2000, p.11) We also know that those countries with these high literacy scores fund high levels of adult learning for civic and social purposes alone and accept as self-evident the correlation between civic participation and productivity.

Another area of focus in this edition is later life learning. ALA has long advocated that the learning needs of the second fifty years of life are vastly different to the first. As a nation, unlike our colleagues in Europe, we have been slow to pick up on the implications of an aging population although there are some positive signs that this is changing, most notably in the prominent role that lifelong learning plays in the recent report of the federal government’s Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians.

In this edition we look at new research by Jane Figgis on the ‘encore career’ and the implications that this new phenomenon has for adult education.

Finally, a third area of policy focus for ALA is adult literacy, particularly the way that literacy is developed through non-formal and informal learning. In this edition we report on an innovative adult literacy program being run in Wilcannia and release a report developed in collaboration with the Australian Education Union, which outlines the case for a more holistic public policy approach to adult literacy.