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E-Plattform für Erwachsenenbildung in Europa

Posted by Mark Ravenhall on 10/10/2017 - 16:26

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: the director's cut

Hi all

Last week at the Setting the Agenda conference in London, some of you got hold of the DRAFT report above.  Jan Eldred and I are gradually getting feedback from across the UK and we shall incorporate this into the final report over the next month.


So... if you have a copy, feel free to post your comments here. We won't be offended (honest!)


If you haven't got a copy yet, one is being prepared.  But here's the foreword as a teaser:


Since 2015, as part of our work for the European Agenda for Adult Learning, L&W and its partners across the UK have been researching and discussing the impact of adult learning.  We have done this through the Impact Forums established in 2014 which meet in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales every quarter.  For these meetings we commissioned stimulus papers that reviewed evidence of the impact of adult learning under three broad themes: health, work, and communities.

These blanket terms were used to address the wide range of terminology that is used across the devolved administrations of the UK.  Part way through the process, in late 2016, we were delighted to see that the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning had used the same three areas in its Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education.  What’s more this report highlighted that the benefits to our health and well-being, our work and employment prospects, and our role in civic, social and community all overlapped.

In some respect, this is just common sense.  But we also found that these ideas have increasing relevance across the UK administrations focusing on outcomes across a range of traditionally siloed policy areas.  Programmes for Government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and increasing devolution to the English city-regions and combined authorities, all indicate that policy needs to focus on outcomes: such as fair employment, social inclusion, and better health.  All areas in which, we argue, adult learning has a significant part to play.

Of course the evidence can be challenged.  As we discussed during the last European Agenda conference in 2015, there are huge ethical issues in conducting randomised control trials in education.  Many of the eminent researchers cited in this document have spent much of their working lives unpicking causality and correlation.  However one thing is clear, involvement in adult learning increases the likelihood that we are healthier, wealthier, and perhaps even wiser!

We present this draft document to you in the spirit of engagement and discussion.  If you are not able to attend the conference in person, I would like you to write to me with suggestions as to how we may strengthen our argument with more and better examples.

Across our three broad themes, we outline ten challenges for the UK today, ten ways in which adult learning helps address those challenges, and ten suggestions as to what we think could be done.

  Are these the right challenges?

  Are these the best examples of how adult learning helps?

  What do YOU think needs to be done?

We hope to take on board all your ideas in our final report to the UK government, and the European Commission at the end of October 2017.  The final report will include sections on the particular challenges England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales along with our recommendation as to what the devolved administrations should do.  

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    Impact is an umbrella term for different orders of change that an intervention might help to bring over time.  A distinction is often drawn between outcomes that are a direct result of an intervention for those immediately involved and the longer-term impact of that intervention. 

    A number of other studies highlight the challenges of assessing and reporting on the social impact of adult learning.  As Social Impact Scotland states:

    When we think about measuring, assessing or evaluating social impact we are naturally focusing on the results of an activity, and not on the activity itself. For this reason, you could say that social impact assessments and evaluation focuses on the outcomes of an activity, and not on the processes or outputs that make up an activity.[1]

    This report focuses on the impact of learning of all kinds whether that learning was designed to address a specific issue or not.  Impact can sometimes be recorded as a direct result of involvement in learning as an adult; in other cases, impact is identified as a correlation between positive wider outcomes and involvement in learning. Establishing direct cause and effect can be challenging but as John Field et al reported, in exploring the impact of Lifelong Learning:

    The accumulated evidence points to positive associations between participation in learning and subjective well-being, and between participation in learning and mental health.[2]

    He found similar impact on learning and employment.


    We'd like to hear examples of the impact YOU think adult learning has in the domains of