by Catherine Marren, Researcher, Learning and Work Institute
Exams, pass-rates, and qualifications are often used to judge the effectiveness of learning. Yet new research published by Learning and Work Institute and Chwarae Teg suggests focusing solely on hard outcomes risks undervaluing other benefits women experience through adult learning.
Drawing on interviews with training providers and learners, the report finds that there is a clear, positive link between women’s participation in learning and improvements to confidence, wellbeing, and determination.
These changes can act as catalysts for wider outcomes too. Women described a ripple effect arising from initial improvements in confidence, wellbeing, and determination. Strengthened relationships with friends and family, gaining knowledge and skills, and progressing at work were just a few of those reported.
Clearly the value of adult education goes far beyond hard outcomes like qualifications, but women face a range of barriers which can prevent them from engaging with learning. Childcare issues, inadequate public transport, and a lack of confidence to engage with learning were some of the key challenges noted by women and providers in the study.
There have been considerable declines in overall participation in adult learning over recent years. This is particularly concerning with regards to gender equality because the current profile of learners suggests that women typically occupy part-time Further Education, adult community learning courses and family learning provision, the areas that have been most damaged by financial cutbacks over the past decade.
A one size fits all approach does not work. To engage women in learning, provision needs to be designed and delivered with their needs at the forefront.
Learning and Work Institute and Chwarae Teg have produced a number of recommendations for Welsh Government and the Commission on Tertiary Education. These recommendations include suggestions for further research, to ensure that the full value of lifelong learning for women is understood and provision is designed in a way that best suits their needs.
You can find the full report and recommendations here.
A recording of the report launch is available to watch here.