Professor Matthew Weait gives keynote address at 2024 Adult Education Symposium

Photo credit: Fishermen Integrated Pte Ltd.

At the end of April 2024, Director of the Department, Professor Matthew Weait, attended the 2024 Adult Educator Symposium in Singapore as a keynote speaker. Addressing more than 400 delegates at the conference, organised by the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE) at the National University of Singapore, he discussed ‘Access and Equity in Lifelong Learning: Global Challenges, Local Solutions’. 

By 2025, the proportion of adults in Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries aged over 65 is expected to rise to 25.1%, compared with 7.7% in 1950. This demographic shift has occurred against the backdrop of rising AI, climate change, the reality and continued threat of pandemic disease, and population movement – whether driven by conflict or a desire to access economic opportunity. For these reasons, access to high-quality educational opportunities throughout the life course is more critical than ever. Whether to re-skill or upskill, to take advantage of the social and psychological benefits of learning, or simply to better understand the rapidly changing world, it is incumbent on states to prioritise equitable access to adult education. 

However, Professor Weait highlighted the significant challenges in delivering such access. UNESCO’s 5th Global Report on Adult Education and Learning (2022) showed how participation for many of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people is not improving and in some cases is declining. Using the example of the refugee crisis to illustrate the benefits of adult education, Professor Weait commented, 'Education contributes to the development of human capital of refugee communities and ensures that the refugees have the basis for increased earning and skills to rebuild their communities.'

He encouraged established institutions to collaborate with local organisations in less-developed areas by sharing resources and offering remote learning platforms. 'We need to all be involved in our own ways and in our own particular contexts.' Earlier this year, three staff members of Oxford Continuing Education were awarded £20,000 by the University of Oxford’s Diversity Fund. This funding has since been used to run workshop sessions for asylum seekers and refugees. The first series, on Academic Communication in English, has just been completed.

Published 17 June 2024