National love to tell us what we want to hear. Among their many pre-election policy lies they waxed lyrical about the value of education, before effectively cutting funding in the budget. On Adult and Community Education (ACE), Bill English was particularly supportive:
Community learning has a long and honourable history. I recall my mother going off to night time classes in furniture restoration, a quiet space in the busy life of a household of 12 children. In a painting class I visited a few years ago a man told me about how the tutor had changed his life by challenging him, teaching him and making him finish the picture. He described how he had become part of this small warm community. There are a thousand stories about how human needs are met by the collective and aspirational activity of learning.
As usual for a right wing government, they are pulling up the ladder behind them. Despite all the fine words, the funding for ACE courses has been slashed, and the cuts are now biting. As usual for a right wing government, it is the less well off who will be disproportionately disadvantaged:
Cuts end popular night classes
Adult education is getting the chop as schools axe night classes after Government Budget cuts. Almost half the schools offering adult education have pulled out and one estimate is that only 10 per cent of last year’s student numbers will be in the classroom this year.
Access to classes that remain could be determined by the size of students’ bank balances as fees soar. … PPTA president Kate Gainsford is warning that night schools could become the domain of the affluent because falling numbers mean fees are increasing. “We’re looking at the beginning of a pattern being revealed which is that schools servicing well-off areas only will be the ones who are offering [courses].”
The government is trying to justify this gutting of adult education as the removal of low value courses. Never mind the sheer hypocrisy of it (so glad your mother enjoyed her furniture restoration Bill), never mind the impoverished definition of “value”, the fact is that they just haven’t looked at the numbers. Check out the 2008 report from Price Waterhouse Coopers Economic Evaluation of Adult and Community Education Outcomes here:
Based on the available data, including the survey responses, the estimated economic impact of the ACE sector is between $4.8 and $6.3 billion annually. This equates to a return on investment of $54 – $72 for each dollar of funding. Each dollar of government funding generates a return of $16 – $22, but this is further leveraged through private contributions to the sector, including those voluntarily added such as unpaid volunteer labour. …
(More quoted here). The return on investment in ACE is staggering. It is the last thing that any economically competent government should be cutting. So that explains it I guess.