We don't hear much about adult education; it tends to be lost amid the clamour of NCEA results and getting children into the Right Schools.
Some children don't connect with primary and secondary education at all. They may have a learning disability, or their home environment is so impoverished - in several senses of the word - that learning is very difficult. They may also move frequently, making ongoing stable education impossible.
Adult education provides a great second chance for such people. For those at the bottom of the economic heap - and there are quite a few in the Wairarapa - increasing basic literacy, numeracy and communication skill is critical to improving lives from a hand-to-mouth, dysfunctional, sometimes violent existence, to a future with hope.
A review of Adult and Community Education (ACE) conducted in 2008 by Price Waterhouse Coopers shows that for every dollar spent on ACE activities, there is a $54 payback in economic and social benefits.
A survey of 593 learners and seven learning organisations (including Wairarapa REAP) found:
* Over 90 percent of learners reported better self esteem and confidence; 58 percent improved health;
* Improved speaking, reading and writing English,using computers, understanding numbers, and speaking Mäori.
* 73 percent reported an improvement in home/family life; 87 percent improved their ability to communicate with others.
* 82 percent of learners intended to progress to further study, either with the same adult and community organisation or elsewhere.
* 60 percent of respondents expected better career prospects as a result of the adult and community education programme they took part in.
* Over 62 percent believed their health had improved as a result of further education – over 15 percent said they smoked or drank less, and 38 percent said their mental health was better.
* 74 percent of participants reported an increase in community participation. The community services in which participants reported the biggest increase in involvement were other community based educational services, other educational services, and employment services.
* The study showed learners became more accepting and understanding of other cultures, beliefs and ways of life.