What I’ve learned about Adult and Community Education in 2014
Our board members share their insights.
Professor Barry Golding, President
I’ve learned that the great work we are doing at ALA: our policies, publications and advocacy, are not only valuable to members but noticed and greatly appreciated around the world. We punch well above our weight, considering the small amount governments spend on ACE in Australia, and on ALA in particular. As neo-liberal agendas make other forms of education drier, more vocationally oriented and expensive, our case and advocacy for learning for many other purposes, lifelong and lifewide, becomes even stronger. I’ve discovered ACE is sort of like a spring. When compressed, it bounces back even stronger.
Dr Mark Brophy
- Why there is still no national policy, strategy and dedicated funding for the ACE sector in this country
- Aside from the success of Men’s Sheds, why there aren’t there more government supported programs that help build literacies and promote social inclusion
- Why we still make the priority in this country just VET or higher education. We are more than just what we do in a job, or what formal qualifications we’ve attained.
- Why some public service regulators treat tiny and small not-for-profit, community driven, low risk ACE providers exactly the same as huge multimillion dollar, Stock Exchange listed private RTOs that blatantly seek new ways to rip off the system.
As long as these issues are not addressed – ALA has a purpose.
This year I became a student in ACE myself. In my 36 year professional life, I worked on projects with ACE providers, referred students to classes and wrote and reviewed government ACE policy – always a step removed from the real thing. I retired at the end of 2013 and have revelled in the chance to enrol in things I loved learning as a teenager. I have been delighted to discover that what I used to promote about the benefits of adult learning really is true. Fellow students come from all walks of life, encouraging each other, and the teachers recognise and work with the different skills and backgrounds of us all. Many students start off very nervous about how they’ll cope and fit in, but are soon learning and laughing and making progress they’re proud of.
I’m involved in providing professional development to ACE practitioners in South Australia helping them to understand and apply new compliance requirements associated with the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF).
For a lot of them this is a real challenge because it means rethinking the way they teach their classes.
In one recent session a group looked at how to integrate formal oral communication skills into a cooking unit. They managed to come up with really creative and surreptitious ways to encourage learners to practice formal language skills during the class without sacrificing the friendly, collaborative and engaging atmosphere they and their learners value. I’ve learned lots from these sessions but overall I’ve learned once again how creative and imaginative ACE teachers are.
Dr Rob Townsend
Adult and Community Education is a very diverse sector and although there have been trying times in most states of Australia around funding, I have learned in 2014 of the continued resilience and innovation of many ACE providers and educators. Also what we call ACE is changing and diversifying and so it is not a discrete ‘sector’ as it once was. We need to embrace the many different forms of organisations, formal and informal, that are facilitating lifelong learning in communities for adults. We need to embrace the many generations that are now participating in learning and adopt practices that suit learners across the life-course.
Dr Trace Ollis
This year I have been inspired by the learning that goes on in the public pedagogies movement. I refer to education that occurs outside the confines of formal institutions, such as museums, libraries, art galleries, neighbourhood houses, community education centres, campaign groups and social movements. These spaces of education make an important contribution to local communities and are often funded through the unpaid work of volunteers. They are important in promoting understanding about, civics, citizenship and democracy.
My particular Christmas wish is for neighbourhood houses to receive guaranteed funding and recognition for their important work.
Working this year with colleagues in Australia and the Asia South-Pacific region to review the Education For All and Millennium Development 2015 Goals and to provide comment on the development of the new world Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 has demonstrated to me that the voices of local communities can be heard on the world stage and can produce significant change. I hope that in 2015 our local communities across Australia are able to find their voice and use their power to communicate the importance of adult learning and Adult and Community Education to Australian governments and insist on access to learning opportunities that are lifelong and lifewide.
What I have learnt is that I am grateful to be in a position to be able to enable and promote lifelong learning both nationally and internationally.
As a body and a member of the board we need to continue to provide access to learning which in turn promotes a socially inclusive Australia. The challenge is how we can embed both informal and formal learning into every day life for our current adult population and for the adult learners of the future.
I have a lifelong passion for learning and education so I’m pleased to be a part of an organisation that promotes lifelong learning. I find that I’m learning more and more about ACE as I go along. Because I am relatively new to this sector I am learning heaps, quickly. My experience has been in adult education in remote communities in the Northern Territory so it’s been fascinating for me to get a look at the diversity of the adult and community education sector around Australia.