A report by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education shows that while ethnic minorities as a whole are frequently involved in classes and training, there are gulfs between the different ethnic groups.
Bangladeshi people were the least likely to be learning, with just 40 per cent studying or training, according to the analysis of official figures carried out for Adult Learners' Week.
In the past three years, 48 per cent of Pakistani adults have attended courses or had the opportunity to train at work.
But 77 per cent of black African adults are involved in adult education compared to just under two-thirds of the total adult population.
Alan Tuckett, director of Niace, said Bangladeshi people had often migrated from rural areas with less experience of education. But helping them achieve five good GCSEs would wipe out the differences in participation rates as adults.
"A Bangladeshi woman living in Brick Lane was one of the key targets for the Government's skills strategy," he said.
"But we don't do as well for them at school. They don't see the education and training system as doing anything for them. And when they get jobs, they get fewer chances to be trained."
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis start with lower rates of participation, and this also falls faster than other ethnic minorities as they age. But Bangladeshi adults are the only group who are more likely to train or study after getting married.
"How good is the system at meeting their needs when almost everything we know about the way people fall out of education is different?" Mr Tuckett said.
For the first time, the survey identified percentages of people of different faiths participating in adult education. Jewish people were most likely to take part, (76 per cent) while just 52 per cent of Muslims and 56 per cent of Sikhs were on a course.
16-page Adult Learners' Week special (inside The Main TES)