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Editor's comment

The habits of ethnic-minority students taking part in adult education are an increasingly important subject as decisions are made about how to include all those who need and deserve access to post-19 education.

Research, reported on the front page of FE Focus this week, shows there are big variations between ethnic-minority groups. The work by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education is a welcome departure from the unsophisticated practice of lumping members of ethnic minorities together as though they were a single group defined only by not being white.

Timed as it is for Adult Learners' Week, which starts tomorrow, the research is essential reading. By focusing individually on ethnic and reeligious groups, Niace has painted a picture that reflects the rich cultural pattern of our society.

It is good to see Jewish people being recognised - rather than being excluded simply because the y are not a "visible minority", the increasingly popular and extremely vague definition used by the race-relations lobby.

There will be inevitable arguments to suggest that some of these communities cannot be reached unless the Government is more flexible on the type of course it is prepared to pay for. These arguments - like all demands for more taxpayers' cash - may be inevitable, but that does not mean they should be ignored.

As with most big western democratic economies, ours has attracted immigration from all corners of the globe, and many more people are following from countries closer to home.

Recent immigrants, and the descendants of previous generations of immigrants, are here largely because the economy depends on them. From the fields of Suffolk and the markets of east London, to the very top of British industry and the media, members of ethnic and religious minorities have helped to build the economy.

Their cultural influence has left us with a capital city which can be truly described as a world city - on a par with New York.

Ministers need to hear directly from community organisations about how each ethnic group can be engaged in adult education.

If we fail to reach our ethnic minorities with the message about the importance of adult education, or to provide the help they may need to take part, we are surely disregarding one of our country' s greatest assets.

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