by Catherine Delahunty
The idea that education is for life is learned from early childhood. The ethos of community based learning, second chance education and community development has informed Adult and Community Education (ACE) programmes for many years. Despite the brutal cuts to ACE the ethos is alive and well in places like Riverslea Primary School in Hastings and McAuley High School in Otahuhu.
These ACE programmes operate in a context which is at the heart of Green educational policy. We believe that schools need to be community hubs where there is an open door to many kinds of activities associated with lifelong learning and community building. We don’t want schools privatised so that community access becomes unaffordable. The positive vision of lifelong learning needs to be valued and nurtured by Government instead of the current League tables and Charter Schools competitive model.
The ACE sector have done an amazing job of working with schools and community groups to sustain adult education and promote the diversity of opportunities for lifelong learning despite the lack of money. I hope the Government will not use the ACE resilience as an excuse to keep a sinking lid on any funds for adult and community education. The greatest way to excite children about learning is for them to see their families engaged in education. When adults are participating in adult education children see the benefits and gain inspiration and purpose.
Hence it was disturbing to hear last week that the ACE sector is still under pressure from the Tertiary Education Commission.
Normally ACE is on a two year funding cycle and has planned accordingly but they have now been told they have to return any unspent funds after one year. This was not written into their 2011 agreement with TEC but is now required. The effect is that of the 23 schools left who deliver ACE possibly half will have to opt out from lack of funds.
Unfortunately the Government has shown that it doesn’t understand either the value or practices of ACE education in the community and is continuing to undermine it.
I have no doubt that ACE will carry on creatively but people miss out every time a programme is cut and the flow on effects of ACE becomes muted. A small state investment as has been negotiated for Enviroschools pays huge dividends for communities and the country. Let’s join the dots and support ACE, we are all lifelong learners.