The Impact of Adult and Community Education on Women’s Lives
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
Adult and Community Education (ACE) in Aotearoa New Zealand (ANZ) is part of the tertiary education sector and takes place alongside the formal sector. This research project focuses on what prompts women to engage in ACE and the subsequent impact on their lives. Furthermore, it will define the features of successful learning environments within ACE as identified by the women participants. In particular, the research concentrates on women who participated in non-accredited and nonvocational ACE programmes in a range of community-based contexts. Underpinned by social constructionist and interpretivist understandings, this inquiry focuses primarily on particular impacts in the social and personal development of women involved in ACE.
Qualitative data collection methods were used, by exploring women’s experiences in face-to-face interviews. Key themes highlighted women’s involvement in ACE was an opportunity for women to meet new people, manage the impact of social isolation and to experience and/or enjoy the mutual support of other women. ACE was also undertaken for practical reasons such as financial accessibility and fewer barriers to participation. Other themes identified were around opportunities available for women to develop their confidence and enhance their personal development. For some women, this subsequently had positive impacts on their families.
An unexpected finding from these results was, for some women, participation in ACE was primarily for social and personal development as opposed to a focus on credentialing and vocational skills. In contrast to previous literature, the research project provides little evidence of limitations imposed by conventional ideas of women’s roles or a lack of participants’ confidence restricting their participation in ACE courses. These results have provided a new picture of the meaning of ACE in women’s lives. The study is a reminder of the importance of diverse programme provision which women value for various reasons.