A value beyond the monetary

30th June 2006 at 01:00
Alan Johnson's philistine call for "more plumbing, less Pilates" (FE Focus, June 16) is just another example of the Government's attempt to characterise adult education as the preserve of the middle-class "raffia mafia", pottering about wasting taxpayers' money, when they could afford to pay for their own courses.

Anyone familiar with adult education knows this is a misrepresentation.

For many small and rural communities, adult education provides a vital function, whatever people are studying.

Adult education classes give much more than the actual content.

They develop confidence; promote physical and mental health; provide an opportunity to make friends; contribute to a sense of community; and create lifelong learners.

They positively contribute to the values which the Government claims to hold dear.

Similarly, New Labour's wish to turn FE colleges into skills factories shows they understand little of the needs of the economy, society or education. As Jon Bryan ("FE cannot save the economy") convincingly argues, there is not a shortage of skills but a shortage of jobs needing skilled workers. For many years, more enlightened industry leaders have told us that successful businesses, and a dynamic economy, need innovation, creativity and thinking skills.

Further and adult education have created, and continue to create, opportunities and second chances for those the school system has failed. As an 11-plus failure, I was condemned to low-paid, unskilled work until an FE college gave me a second chance. I am now a senior lecturer in education and the investment made in me has been returned many times by my work in education, not to mention the extra tax I have paid as a result of higher earnings. Luckily, I had my second chance during the 1970s. I couldn't have done it under Thatcher or Blair.

Like Oscar Wilde's cynic who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, this government knows the cost of further and adult education but has no idea of its value.

Pete Scales

University of Derby

Kedleston Road

Derby

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