By comparison, the US is far more vocal about any positive outcomes as a result of an economic crisis than the UK are. Over here of course, our focus on the bleakness may well be because there is nothing positive occurring, but this seems unlikely – especially when one considers the basic parallels evident between North America’s problems and our own.
In Prince George, California, it has recently been reported by pgcitizen.co.uk that adult education is booming. With the economy getting weaker, enrollment numbers essentially are getting stronger. The Center for Learning Alternatives principal, Steve Fleck, stated, ‘The challenges people are suffering as a result of the economic downturn are, we hope, turning into future opportunities through our learning centre. People who are underemployed now have realized the critical need to get their credentials in order so they are ready when the economic upswing comes along’.
In the UK however, reports of this nature have not been heard. Instead, our news sources (which are incidentally often seen as of better quality by North Americans themselves) are very focused on the job losses, the lows of the ‘high street’, Woolworths, and the mess of the government, etc, etc. There is never any thought or discussion as to whether the credit crunch could have been a wake-up call for an entire generation.
Of course, in the US, the boom in adult education has caused a strain on services and institutions. In Salt Lake City 30 percent of funding has been taken from adult education funds, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. In the city alone, enrollments have increased by 28 percent on last year. Consequently, the decrease in money and influx in students is putting the local government and education coordinators in very difficult positions – i.e. whether to force inmates at Utah prison to pay back money for secondary education, in order to reimburse those law-abiding citizens seeking adult education.
In spite of the inherent problems with the situation, I believe the overall social shift for adults to be seeking further education is a very positive thing. This is not only because of the fact that these individuals will no doubt lead a full, more challenging, and rewarding life when the economy improves, but also because the success of the education sector at any level is nothing but a good thing – for the betterment of our children’s future, and for society as a whole. And so if we are ignoring an adult education boom in the UK, it is about time we analysed and celebrated it – and if it is not yet here, I await its imminent arrival.