Participation in adult learning falls on average by 3% says National Institute of Adult Continuing Education

The number of adults participating in learning in the past year has fallen, according to research published to coincide with Adult Learners’ Week.

A survey by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) found that the proportion of adults currently learning, or having done so in the last three years, has dropped from 41% in 2007 to 38% in 2008.

The study defines ‘learning’ as practising, studying or reading about something. It can also mean being taught, instructed or coached and does not have to lead to a qualification.

The poll of 4,932 adults revealed that the reduction in participation had affected some groups disproportionately, including:

  • Learning by skilled manual workers has fallen from 40% to 33% in a single year
  • Participation by full-time workers has fallen from 51% in 2006 to 45% in the current survey
  • Part-time workers’ participation fell from 55% in 2006 to 48% this year
  • The number of people age 25-34 learning has fallen from 50% to 43% in a single year.

There is also a sharp drop in the number of adults planning to take up learning in the future – just one-third said they planned to do so.

Alan Tuckett, director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said: “This survey poses sharp challenges. Its major finding, that participation has fallen among key target groups for the government’s learning and skills strategy, calls into question the balance of current policy instruments.

“One goal of policy is to engage those who say they have done no learning since school, the finding that just 15% plan to get involved shows the size of the task if the government’s goals are to be realised.”

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