Education should not discriminate

With tightening budgets, adult education, which was once the leading way for adults who may have missed out on traditional education, is becoming a collapsing and underfunded form of education. As the winner of Young Adult Learner of the Year in 2014, I have seen first-hand the power that education can bring to adults. From rehabilitating young offenders to giving those of an old generation pleasure in pursuing a past time that they may not have been able to pursue whilst young, adult education has a profound effect on all members of society. Yet, in the past few years, consecutively fewer and fewer numbers of people are joining  part-time and adult education, with a 28% dive in numbers joining the part time educational institute, The Open University, as quoted from The Times Higher Educational Supplement.

Adult education, I have found, is one of these ‘use it or lose it’ situations. With fewer numbers, there is less demand, and in turn less demand requires less funding, funding is then cut for unpopular courses or courses or even removed altogether.

One of my major dangerous ideas to secure a more sustainable future for adult learners is to introduce adult learners to career paths that they would not ordinarily take, to keep certain educational routes for adults open.

I am currently a student planning to study at the Open University, to gain a degree in Natural Sciences, before this I was a traditional red brick institute studying pure chemistry. During my educational journey, I was disheartened by the lack of strong female role models in science and in particular, the lack of strong female role models in chemistry, though I had been encouraged by my college lecturers to pursue a career in science, I felt that as if I could have benefited from seeing female scientists, face-to-face. This led to me to creating my educational charity GlamSci.

GlamSci is an educational charity that aims to to encourage more young women into the field of science and technology, and is run by current undergraduate students in each of their prospective fields, but is trying to get those in industry involved also. Glam Sci. offers support to young women, inspires curiosity and provide up to minute information of the scientific field and frank no-holds bar opinions of the processes that lead up to a career in STEM.

GlamSci offers a number of different events, depending on the individual needs of the session and the students involved. Specialised talks and lectures are given to large groups of individuals or classes. These talks cover all topics such as, science, maths and technology in the greater field, what is needed to study these subjects further, and how to cope with college and UCAS applications. Live demonstrations of science experiments are performed to capture the interest of a group of students; the language of science and technology is introduced, with a few interactive mental maths problems, and interactive with small groups of students, the chance to perform their own experiments and solving problems alongside scientists and mathematicians, as they would do in industry. Workshops are also held, where practical information is given to students individually and any burning questions can be answered by experts in their fields.  Glam Sci. caters to the interests of all students, by not encouraging students to come to them, but by physically going to the students and encouraging them from within their institutes, their workplaces and their homes.

By physically, seeking learners themselves, it encourages learners to get involved in gaining hands-on experience in a field they might not have ordinarily considered, and I personally found that many people have said that hearing from those in the field and those with in further education and being able to gain hands-on experience of some of the tasks that a career in STEM would actually require, has made the idea of joining a career in STEM more desirable and at the same time, more achievable. STEM careers have always seemed a far-off dream to some, due to lack of support and information, lack of funding, lack of grades, etc, but GlamSci acts to break down those barriers, break down the snobbery within science to bring it to the women, to the lay-man, as well as supporting them and providing the information that they need to know to be able to progress within a career in STEM.

A pilot program, like GlamSci, would be a huge benefit to many adult learners in Wales. A scheme like this would need the support of some of Wales’s universities, adult education centres and industries, as well as the help of a few talented individuals who also care about the education of STEM subjects for adult learners. Though this program may take a while to establish fully, the skills gained from such a program would bring a scientific and technological revolution to the Welsh workplace, with more people with the core STEM skills, greater our industrial progression can happen within the workplace, leading to boost the economy.

I cannot express to the Welsh assemblies, governing bodies and funding bodies, about the benefits of adult education in STEM within the economic workplace greatly enough. With such a slow economic recovery from the recession in 2007, having greater skilled workers, especially in technology and engineering would undoubtedly revitalise the workforce, allowing more industrial technology to be produced within that area, increasing economic output, and thus benefit the country.

My advice for those of The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is that adult education needs to be spoken about and promoted to gain the same recognition as those studying education from the ages 5-19. It needs to be encouraged to provide the same opportunities for learners as those in traditional education have, as education should not be just for the young. Education needs to be an avenue for every stage of life, whether you are young and starting out in a career, or for those who seek a change of field, even to those who seek education for the pleasure of study. Education should not discriminate.

 

Amy King was awarded Young Adult Learner of the Year for the 2014 NIACE Adult Learners Week Awards. Despite suffering ill-health which meant Amy missed years of schooling, and being told she would never amount to anything and that pure science ‘wasn’t for girls’, Amy is now studying a Masters Degree in Chemistry. She also runs her own charity, volunteers with lower-set and SEN children, and is on track to realise her ambition of becoming a science teacher or researcher. Here is Amy’s dangerous think piece for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Wales.