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The boundaries of adult education for active citizenship – institutional and community contexts

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In common with many other countries, the 1980s and early 1990s in New Zealand were years of considerable upheaval. The welfare state along with many democratic institutions was under attack from the forces of multinational capital. This article reports some findings from a largescale study investigating the impact of these changes on the provision of education and training opportunities for adults as well as possible effects of some of these programmes on wider policies and practices. It is hoped that the study will contribute to greater understanding of the complex relationships between the 'curriculum' of adult learning and education and wider social, economic and political forces. This article focuses exclusively on adult education programmes for active citizenship, i.e. programmes explicitly intended to promote, inform, analyse, critique, challenge, or raise public consciousness about public policies and issues. It investigates the nature and extent of the contributions of educational institutions and voluntary organizations to adult and community education for active citizenship. The findings suggest that from one perspective adult education for active citizenship was alive and well in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The period saw an increase in the number of social movements and 'non-educational' voluntary organizations and groups engaged in adult education for active citizenship. Much of this drew on progressive or radical democratic traditions. From another perspective the position was by no means as positive. Educational institutions varied widely in their commitment to adult education for active citizenship. Most institutions, drawing on conservative and pragmatic traditions, demonstrated little commitment, while those that were involved drew on liberal traditions. These traditions, grounded in discourses that de-politicized education, reinforced the boundaries between adult education and political action and thus served to legitimate the neo-liberal ideologies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2000

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