I have read a couple of pieces recently that are reminders about the wider benefits of involvement in adult learning.

The first is Learning through life: Inquiry into the future of lifelong learning (NIACE, 2009) by Tom Schuller and David Watson. They summarise their vision of  a society in which learning plays its full role in personal growth and emancipation, prosperity, security and global responsibility. They continue by suggesting that learning is imtimately connected to the freedom of choice, control over individual and group destinies, health and well being, cultural identity and democratic tolerance (page 1).

Second, was an article by Jo Balatti and Ian Falk (Adult Education Quarterly, 2002, 52(4)) which suggested that all of the learning programmes that they studied had a range of benefits. These included  benefits to health (for example, decreased use of alcohol), benefits in education and learning (such as going on to another course), employment and work life (e.g. finding paid work), time and leisure (e.g. engaging in recreational activity), command over goods and services (e.g. more effective budgetting), the physical environment (e.g. recycling waste), the social environment (e.g. interacting better with family and friends) and personal safety (e.g. driving more safely).

Balatti and Falk see these benefits of learning occuring as a result of the social capital of individuals and communities being developed as more learned citizens interact with each other.

So, in other words, discourses of social capital are a way of thinking about the wider benefits of learning (and of participation in higher education). This is something I intend to come back to in later posts to this blog.

Dr. Jonathan Hughes


Centre for Inclusion and Curriculum


Balatti, J., & Falk, I. (2002) Socioeconomic contributions of adult learning to community: a social capital perspective, Adult Education Quarterly, 52(4), 281. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Schuller, T., & Watson, D. (2009) Learning Through Life: Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, Leicester: NIACE/IFLL

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