Adult education and lifelong learning change lives

The financial and economic crisis had a deep impact on people and societies we live in, increased distress on the households, exacerbated poverty and social exclusion, and weakened social ties. The impact on the socio-economically vulnerable people has been even stronger. SOLIDAR Foundation member organisations work closely within those communities to provide social and educational services to bridge inequalities and empower people to actively participate in the society.

SOLIDAR Foundation’s member organisation Worker’s Educational Association (WEA) from the UK published its impact report 2015.

For this report, over 1000 adult students were surveyed on questions on the wider impact of their learning with WEA. More precisely, the report looked at progress made in four core areas: employability; health and well-being; community engagement and cultural education. It presents evidence that adult learning has a considerable impact on individuals, communities and the wider society. WEA’s work transforms outcomes for people in deprived communities; it reduces social exclusion, increases social mobility and enables families to break the cycle of deprivation. Eighty percent of WEA students reported that WEA courses exceeded or met all of their expectations and for 19 per cent they met some of their expectations.

The key findings showcase the positive impacts of the association’s work on its students due to participating in lifelong learning. The report has shown that WEA courses:

  • develop important employment-related skills and life skills that help improve students’ wellbeing at and outside work;
  • improve students’ engagement with their communities and foster a community spirit;
  • improve the health and wellbeing of students and enable students to make better health decisions, particularly those with long term health conditions;
  • encourage students to take up voluntary work as well as provide skills useful in voluntary work;
  • encourage students to be more active citizens;
  • develop students culturally and improve their cultural understanding;
  • provide useful skills, confidence and improve employment opportunities for both the employed and unemployed;
  • positively impact parenting and improve familial relations;
  • encourage students to take up taught courses and learn independently;
  • have a substantially higher impact on students from ethnic minorities and students claiming means-tested benefits and;
  • have cascading benefits beyond students and into families and communities.

SOLIDAR Foundation believes that education and lifelong learning are very strong tools to fight social inequalities, social exclusion and unemployment as they upgrade skills, knowledge and intercultural and multilingual competences as well as contribute to social development. The impact report of WEA provides an evidence and echoes the need for lifelong learning strategies and policies to become at the heart of policies as they enable health community and learning societies building. Benefits of lifelong learning should be recognized, such as well-being, self-fulfillment and active contribution to society, and thus reflected in the investment policies supporting lifelong learning and adults’ education.