Education for adults vow cheers

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:43 11/06/2014

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Labour's election promise to increase funding for adult and community education classes has been met with enthusiasm by a Nelson adult education co-ordinator.

On Friday Labour leader David Cunliffe said his party would increase funding to Adult and Community Education (ACE) courses if elected.

He said the party would provide $13 million in the first two years and a further $9m in the following years for adult education, as well as $1m a year for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.

ACE helped improve lives by improving, employment chances and training for new career options, he said.

"A 2008 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that for every government dollar invested in this sector there was at least a $16 return."

National had slashed funding to ACE in its 2009 budget, with the number of schools providing courses dropping from 212 to 23.

Speaking in Nelson on Friday, Prime Minister John Key said the Government made cuts to adult education funding as part of its plan to "live within its means".

"That's one of the reasons why we are back in surplus; on the other side of the coin, many of the classes that disappeared were of reasonably low value," he said.

While he admitted the value of ACE classes was contestable, he said the Government had invested in foundation classes, apprenticeships and trades training.

"I am comfortable we have that mix broadly about right.

"There are always some people who think the Government should put more into the hobby-type classes.

"But the question is whether the taxpayer's dollar should be focused on things that are arguably of more benefit to the economy."

Nelson co-ordinator of Adult Community Education Kathryn Sclater said there was value in "hobby courses" and was "heartened" by Labour's promise.

She wanted to see funding increased for ACE, as night classes could be a first step toward enrolling in higher education.

Sclater organised ACE classes at Nayland and Waimea colleges.

Classes range from languages to cooking to computing.

She said ACE classes were good for those who had changed circumstances, had either lost jobs, needed to retrain or were considering further education.

There was value in "all sorts of education", including hobby courses.

"I think education has to cover a whole landscape.

"It's really short-sighted if it's only for a particular sector of society."

She said ACE was for anyone who was motivated to learn, for any reason.

"Education needs to be available to all levels of society; some people can't pay at all."

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Sclater said investment in trades training was "fantastic".

But it was also "really important to retrain adults".

The classes did not receive any government funding, but relied on grants and fees from users.

She said they worked hard to supply courses people wanted.

Tertiary Education Union national president Lesley Francey also said it was time to rebuild community education classes.

"New Zealand was a world leader in adult and community education, with ACE being an integral part of our education since at least 1915.

"From its inception, ACE has had a vital role to play in igniting or re-igniting our desire to learn, particularly for those New Zealanders who missed the opportunity to participate in education beyond the compulsory sector, for rural communities, for adult learners, and for new migrants."

- The Nelson Mail

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