THE AXING of 120 full-time and 1,000 part-time community education posts has led to a 40 per cent fall in the take-up of basic education courses for adults.
Some 600,000 Scots have difficulties with literacy and numeracy but "this profound area of exclusion has not been effectively addressed over the past 20 years", according to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
Its draft report on community education is being published ahead of a separate Scottish Office review, which is expected to link community education with the forthcoming strategy on lifelong learning.
The authorities' study found that pound;25 million has been wiped from community education budgets over the past two years, adding to the cuts over the final years of the Tory Government.
The councils say this has affected their ability to tackle growing educational disadvantage and social exclusion through community based learning opportunities.
"Across most parts of Scotland, the provision of community education opportunities is now lower, in some areas by a factor of 50 per cent, than it was prior to local government reorganisation in 1996," the report emphasises.
In Glasgow, staffing has been cut by 50 per cent over the past five years. One full-time community education worker in the city has to cover a population the size of Falkirk.
The task group, chaired by Brian Oldrey, education convener in Renfrewshire, calls for national targets to measure performance and a shift from managing facilities and menus of adult classes and youth programmes "towards interventions shaped by real life issues".
Staff should also be used across a range of council agendas because of their pivotal role in supporting adults who have no involvement in learning after formal schooling, Cosla says.