Earlier this month, the first meeting of the Commission for Adult Education 100 was held at Balliol College, Oxford. As a member of the esteemed panel, Cilla gives us a unique perspective on some of the challenges that the group will face as they embark on a groundbreaking piece of research 100 years on from the original 1919 report on adult education.

The campaign

The Commission is part of a wider campaign committed to marking the centenary of the Ministry of Reconstruction’s Final Report on Adult Education which laid the groundwork for British adult education during the 20th century.

The Commission’s  remit is: “To consider the provision for, and possibilities of, Adult Education in Great Britain, and to make recommendations”. The aim is to conduct some action research leading to a report.

Education and the co-operative movement 

After all, the co-operative  movement began in communities using adult education to build cooperative identity and the skills of cooperators.

For the Co-operative  College and co-operative education more generally, this is a great opportunity to reconnect not only with its adult education roots but also to influence others on new, cooperative approaches to participatory and democratic learning and practice. After all, the co-operative  movement began in communities using adult education to build cooperative identity and the skills of cooperators.

The day itself

All participants were asked to present for no more than five minutes on what hopes they had for the Commission, what role they felt adult education had in society, what the strengths and challenges are in engaging policy makers and how both the research and  report can be relevant and meaningful.

There have, after all, been a number of other fantastic reports which have helped shaped the sector and the educators’ practice. However in reality these reports have had little impact on the policies of the government of the day. We aim to reverse that pattern and achieve an impact similar to that of the  original 1919 Report!

What struck everybody around the table was the diversity of those in the meeting, the different aspects of adult education represented and the sheer passion and commitment of everyone participating. After much wide ranging discussion, we agreed that our research should not only focus on the many excluded from adult education, but also acknowledge that rich and nuanced adult learning does still take place. We decided that we will conduct our research creatively and imaginatively,  pushing new boundaries in  communities and place and produce a report loosely organised as follows. 

The focus of the new report 

Group picture of all members of the commission

As a commission we decided that the report would be broadly split into three main areas:

  • A broad survey of the adult education landscape since 1919, using the ambition and values of the original Commission and its report as a lens.
  • Discuss where adult education sits at the present time. This will include an evidence based assessment of the current economic and social environment and key issues that adult education can address such as precarious work, the decline of democratic engagement, critical thinking and democratic practice, social fragmentation and deepening inequalities.
  • The third and final part of the report will offer findings, vision, practical actions and recommendations.

Although the Commission will be responsible for steering the research, it is the voices of learners and other stakeholders that will shape the final report.

Looking ahead 

The second Commission will meet in Manchester on March the 11th and 12th. This time the wider campaign will be launched with adult learners and focus groups participating in activities and research at our HQ in Holyoake House. We can't wait!

Read more about the background behind the 1919 report and the Adult Education 100 campaign by clicking below.

Adult Education info