Social cohesion, equity and equality

Adult education can compensate a lack of education in earlier life and enable social mobility – and thus promote social cohesion, equity and equality.

Individual levels of education have a huge impact on people’s opportunities in life, ranging from the kind of jobs they can attain to life expectancy. There is a lot of international research, which highlights that those who have done better from their initial education and with higher levels of qualifications are more likely to continue to learn.

Adult education furthers greater social mobility. Adult education supports both those who have not been able to take full advantage of initial education and those who have but want to pursue further learning as an adult.

From basic skills training to second chance schools and language learning – adult education provides many opportunities to improve individuals’ lives but also to equalise societies on a larger scale and to create fairer societies as well as more economic growth. 

Bringing people together

Outreach to groups that are not participating in learning is necessary in order to achieve more social inclusion. With the right methodologies, people will be able to participate more – in society, democracy, economy, arts and culture.

Adult learning is particularly powerful in bringing together people from different walks and stages of life, in developing mutual understanding and respect, and in contributing to active citizenship, personal development and well-being. This benefits society, democracy and social peace.

Research evidence

Adult education gives people opportunities to shape their own lives. 

Research has shown that the less people are able to successfully shape their lives, an ability which is built and rebuilt throughout the course of their lives, the greater they are at risk of exclusion. This is why adult learning and education are given a key value. Wider benefits of adult education – in addition to the acquired skills and qualifications – are achieved through two mechanisms:

  1. Personal characteristics and abilities: adult education and learning strengthens the development of key skills, abilities and personal resources as well as reinforces belief in the individual’s ability to deal with disadvantageous situations.
  2. Social interaction: adult education enables access to individuals and groups with a similar and heterogeneous socio-economic background, encourages social cohesion and provides possibility of social involvement.

Good practice

 Good practices from Sweden and Spain show how to increase the motivation of students. 

Motivating courses

In Sweden the Study motivating folk high school courses, encouraging young job-seekers to continue their studies, have seen very good results. After the course, some 40% of participants continued to either studies or work, and over two-thirds felt motivated to study and believed that education is a route into work.

All over Sweden special folk high school courses are organised for immigrants to support their settling in Swedish society, as well as study circles for asylum seekers. These successful special efforts are possible because they are based on existing competences and run by state-funded organisations within a national structure of adult learning.

Welcoming new students

At the Spanish adult education centre La Verneda – Sant Martí, welcoming people who come to the school for the first time is considered an important task that must be done individually. Time is taken for each person who arrives at the school. Participants from previous years play a crucial role in the reception, registration and assignment of groups, as they have the communication skills and an understanding of what it is like to attend for the first time.

The decision of which level a new participant is assigned to is based on dialogue and consensus. Attention is paid to making sure each person understands the process he or she is in and is placed in the group and level where they will learn the most. Staff and volunteers are careful to avoid making participants feel they are being tested.