From education to employment

Survey on Duty for Adult Education Reveals True Depth of Question

The issue of funding for adult education courses has become increasingly fraught in recent months as the Government have targeted funding more specifically at young people and the provision of basic skills training in an effort to meet the economic demands for a better skilled economy.

A survey has recently attempted to shed some light on who should be responsible for footing the bill for adult education; individuals, employers or the government. In the survey, conducted by the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), the question of who should foot the adult education bill revealed that the general public fails to automatically link two connected funding issues ““ namely, a startling number do not realise that spending “by Government” is directly linked to spending “by taxpayer”.


One of the central planks to the findings was the belief by 54% of those surveyed ““ numbering some 6,000 ““ that government, rather than the taxpayer, should pay for basic skills courses. Further to this, 48% believe that the government should be responsible for funding level 2 provision, 67% favoured government funding for vocational education and only 36% believed government should be responsible for personal development courses rather than the taxpayer.

As ever when dealing with human responses, a certain contradiction can be noted. For instance, those who have not been involved in learning since school believed that individuals should pay for their own courses whilst simultaneously stating that one of the principal reasons that they themselves have not participated in education is the cost of such courses.

Not in Keeping with Government Policy?

It is worth noting that the government’s commitment to providing free level 2 training and education for all has been regarded as overly generous by many of those surveyed, and that employers appear to have escaped a wide ranging call for contribution to the cost. Respondents stated that even in cases where the training provided is directly relevant to the company and vocational in nature, employers should pay only half of the actual cost. The remainder, respondents feel, should include individuals footing more than 30% of the bill and the government merely responsible for 15%.

The survey also found that the majority of people believe that some 40% of the costs of basic skills courses should be recouped from the learners themselves, with fewer than one in four adults agreeing that the government should fully subsidise these courses. The survey makes very uncomfortable reading for stakeholders and for government policy makers, and indicates the fundamental problem; people appear to want better provision but do not want to pay for it in tax increases.

The Director of NIACE and a report author, Professor Alan Tuckett, stated: “Despite cuts in spending and learner numbers in England, there is growing recognition that it is in the public interest to secure a learning society. As well as helping individuals, lifelong learning benefits both society and the economy more widely. The question is “who should pay?” Politicians have a hard job here. People don”t want higher taxes but expect adult education and training to be a public service, not a leisure option. We can”t have our cake and eat it. There needs to be a much better informed debate about what the country expects and can afford.”

Jethro Marsh

Hunker down in From the FE Trenches!

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