From education to employment

Research Highlights Variations in Uptake of Education in Adults from Bangladeshi and Pakista

With the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP making specific reference to issues of inclusion and participation in his Budget speech this year, it would appear that this has become a higher priority than ever.

In an effort to reveal the true levels of participation amongst the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) population, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has commissioned a research project to determine the participation rates amongst adults in learning. The data, revealed during Adult Learning Week, has revealed that there is a dramatically lower level in learning participation amongst adults who are of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin compared to other BME adults and the general population.

The Briefing Document

The report is called “In the Spotlight”. It was written by Fiona Aldridge, Yanina Dutton and Alan Tuckett, and was funded partly through contributions from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Local Government Association (LGA). The mission of the report is in keeping with the broader purpose of NIACE; to whit, to encourage more and different adults to engage in learning of the highest quality.

The data is based on the latest data gathered in the Government’s Labour Force Survey (LFS). The research was gathered from a base of data drawn from 60,000 households from across the United Kingdom. When the person or people responding considered themselves to be of Bangladeshi origin, there was a notable drop in learning participation rates amongst the adult population ““ it stands at 40%, when compared to 77% for people stating themselves to be of Black African origin.

The figure for participation across the entire population in learning was found to stand at 66%, whilst Black Caribbean and Indian respondents coming out within two percentage points of this level. The research also noted a pattern emerging in the Bangladeshi population; it would seem that theirs is the only group whose inclination towards engaging in education and learning increases with marriage. This is in stark contrast to those of Chinese, Indian and Pakistani origin, where marital status appears to have little or no impact.

Supportive, but More Work Needed

The Director of NIACE and one of the co ““ authors of the report, Alan Tuckett, spoke of the significance of the report and of the need for the Government to sit up and take greater notice of the issues faced by members of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations, saying: “The under-representation of people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin in these figures is a serious challenge for Government.”

The report does, however, offer some support for Government policies and initiatives. The research finds that the achievement of a Level 2 (equivalent to 5 GCSEs) qualification serves as a trigger to improve participation and engagement in education. This was found to be particularly true for those people of Bangladeshi and Chinese origin; however, it would appear that this qualification has a very minimal impact on participation amongst the Black Caribbean adult population.

It would appear, then, that much work remains to be done, not only simply in inclusion but in understanding that within that catchall “BME” there are a plethora of different cultural and social issues that can affect participation, and that demand a flexible approach. Alan Tuckett commented: “The [national] skills strategy needs to focus on the particular learning journeys that will bring more people from minority communities into the labour market as well as raising their skill levels within it. More supple policy levers will be needed.”

Jethro Marsh

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