Global Britain in UNESCO: will the UK respond to the next Global Report on Adult Learning and education?

In 2022, UNESCO will publish its fifth global report on adult learning and education. Based on responses from UNESCO member states, the report will monitor the development of adult learning and education (ALE) across the world; it will also include a focus on the role of ALE in supporting active and global citizenship. But will the UK take part?

Sadly, the signs aren’t encouraging. The UK went unrepresented at the European regional consultation that is responsible for preparing the next monitoring conference, and the UK failed to respond to UNESCO’s fourth global monitoring report on ALE, GRALE 4.

Fortytwo countries from UNESCO’s European region responded to GRALE 4, published in 2019. The UK found itself among a mere six non-respondents, who included Monaco, San Merino, Israel (whose relationship to UNESCO is fraught), and the Ukraine, who were at war at the time. The UK shares with Monaco the distinction of failing to respond either to GRALE 4 or GRALE 3.

Given that 159 UNESCO member states did manage to respond, up from 139 who responded in 2015, this is disappointing. It sits ill with the government’s claim to be outward-looking and global in its perspective. It also reflects badly on the UK’s national UNESCO Commission, who failed to act and help the government avoid this embarrassment. The UK’s UNESCO Commission also has responsibility for the country’s involvement in the region’s preparatory conferences in the lead up to the 2022 International Conference that will discuss performance and ambitions in member states’ policies for ALE.

For me, this sorry state of neglect poses three questions. First, it made me ask why the UK government doesn’t see GRALE as an obviously useful tool in assessing its own ambitions and achievements in adult skills. Bear in mind that the UK government has placed skills at the centre of its industrial strategy, the Prime Minister has repeatedly argued for skills and education in ‘levelling up’ the regions and nations of the UK, and all for nations claim that futher education is significant politically. 

Second,it is time for a closer look at the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO. It probably comes as  no surprise to learn that its Board includes no one with a backgound in or public interest in ALE, but this is nonetheless the body which ensures the UK’s representation at key UNESCO gatherings, and which advises the UK and devolved governments on UNESCO-related issues. Is it simply ignoring correspondence on ALE, or is offering advice on ALE issues that the UK government ignores?

Third, it made me wonder whether it isn’t time for the UK to ask UNESCO to treat it as a federation of four states. Education policy in the UK is a devolved matter. Other countries seem to handle devolution without difficulty; if the Faroe Islands Government submitted its own response to GRALE 4 without any objection from Denmark, why not the UK?


Adult education and municipal enterprise: Learning from the 80s

Reading Helen Jackson’s political memoir has been both a joy and an inspiration. It is essentially the story of her political life before becoming an MP, when she rose from activist to senior councillor at a time when local government was an exciting space for experiment and innovation as well as an important source of much-needed public services. Until, that is, the Thatcher government decided that local government needed its wings clipped.

Sheffield, where Helen taught, worked, and raised a family, stood at the centre of several significant developments. Before the mass unemployent of the early 1980s, the City Council was one of a number of radical local authorities that sought to protect and expand public services such as housing and education, and led a number of radical new policies such as South Yorkshire’s much-loved policy of freezing bus fares (I have happy memories of taking my daughter into town at the princely sum of 12p each way).

As unemployment hit hard at the region’s traditional (male) industries in the early 80s, the Council shifted to using its position as an employer and purchaser to promote local employment, promote equality of access to work, and to improve the quality of jobs on offer, while woeking in partnership with an initially reluctant business community to support enterprise and attract new jos. And it was striking how strong a role adult education played in this process.

Helen is well-placed to comment on these developments. As an increasingly vocal champion of women’s rights and advocate of racial justice, and as an influential elected office-holder responsible for the large direct works department, as well as being an educator herself, she is able to give an authoritative account of the part played by adult education in Sheffield’s municipal socialism.

Three of these initiatives are particularly worth mentioning. First is the opening of Northern College, the first residential adult college in the north of England, which stood out for its commitment to a broad conception of social justice which linked class, gender and ethnicity to its educational work, and continues to do important work with adults to this day. Keith Jackson, the College’s first deputy principal, was then Helen’s husband.

While the College partly emerged from the strong tradition of trade union education and industrial day release schemes in South Yorkshire, Helen also points to other important influences in the Workers’ Educational Association and some of the innovative community development work launched by the Home Office in 1969. She notes that the College was an early adopter of free childcare for students, initially funded by an outside grant and later absorbed into the ongoing budget.

Second, Helen describes the pioneering work of the women who challenged gender stereotyping in traditionally male manual crafts. It’s easy now to forget how innovative – and controversial – it was for women to train as garage mechanics or builders, and then work successfully in their new trades. Women from this group went on to train others through further education and through new training programmes for women, as well as helping influence the Council to adopt gender monitoring in its own employment practices.

The third pioneering initiative was the Take Ten scheme of paid educational leave for the Council’s manual workers. As the name implied, Council workers could take a day a week off to attend a tailored course for ten weeks; against expectations, some 270 attended in the first year alone, with priority going to the low-paid and those with no previous qualifications.

There were others. For example, the Council established a Community Work Apprenticeship Scheme, recruiting people from disadvantaged backgrounds to train as community workers rather than relying on the largely white middle class graduates who would otherwise have taken these roles. There’s also the informal learning that informed Helen’s gender politics, among other areas. But that’s probably enough to give a flavour of the book’s account of adult eduction’s contribution to municipal enterprise in the conditions of the 1980s.

It’s striking to work out how much of this thinking and experience was carried over into the early Blair years after 1997, when Helen became Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Particularly while David Blunkett was Secretary of State for Education, the early Blair government supported and promoted lifelong learning as a vehicle for employability and social justice, in ways that have still to be systematically evaluated; but it is also striking that the Labour governments subsequently back-pedalled on much of this work.

What conclusions do I draw from this? First, the book provides a coherent account of adult learning’s role in promoting social change and civic engagement as well as economic regeneration. Second, it shows how local government can serve as a test-bed for broader strategies – something worth remembering given the devolution of adult education budgets to the English regions.

Third, and most important, it made me wonder why the 1997-99 innovations were so easily overturned. On Helen Jackson’s account, the Sheffield adult education measures were popular as well as effective, so that opposition was eventually overcome. But that wasn’t the experience at national level.

With the benefit of hindsight, I’m not convinced that after 1997 we – the adult learning community – did enough to generate enthusiasm and build support for the new policies. Consequently the Treasury found it easy to persuade later ministers that adult education was all cost and no benefit, and could cheerfully be dismissed as a luxury rather than a national necessity.

Entertaining the unemployed: a musical revue in a British work camp 1938

Aerial photo of Haldon Instructional Centre (from Haldon’s Hidden Heritage)

Haldon Instructional Centre was the only government work camp to open in south-west England. Opened in December 1936 with a capacity of 200 places, and located on the Haldon Hills half way between Exeter and Dawlish, the camp was built to take unemployed men from Wales and the south west and north west of England.

As with the other 26 Ministry of Labour camps, the primary purpose was to ‘recondition’ men who had supposedly gone ‘soft’ through unemployment by exposing them to hard manual labour. Conditions The men lived in Nissen huts and worked to clear rough land and build roads so that the estate wad ready for planting by the Forestry Commission. According to a report in the Daily Worker in 1937, the men were “subjected, from 8 am to 4 pm, to an extremely severe discipline”.

But there was also another side to camp life. Early experience had taught the Ministry of Labour that isolating 200 young men in a forest camp was a recipe for trouble; it also discovered that many young unemployed men had trouble reading or writing, or were held back by poor underlying health, so that the camps became a kind of laboratory for adult education and free dental, medical or eyesight care.

As for misbehaviour, the Ministry concluded that the problem lay in boredom. Through the thirties it increasingly approved provision for organised leisure, from film showings to sports teams. And it agreed to allow well-meaning locals to perform in front of the men – a decision that from the Ministry’s point of view brought several benefits: it entertained the trainees while also showing that others cared for them; and it gave a positive public impression of the camp to visitors and more widely.

Devon and Exeter Gazette, 11 February 1938

Like the other Ministry of Labour camps, Haldon closed shortly before the outbreak of war in September 1939. The camp concert was far from unique – similar events took place at other work camps, but always with the approval of the camp authorities, who had their own reasons for entertaining the unemployed. You can read more about a range of British work camp schemes in my book, Working Men’s Bodies: Work camps in Britain 1880-1940.

Adult Education under Pandemic Conditions: Challenges & Perspectives

Across the world, the pandemic has transformed adult education. After over a year, some governments are looking at a falling number of infections, and starting to relax restrictions; elsewhere, the situation is deteriorating. It seems as good time as any to take stock of the pandemic’s impact and the sector’s response, and this Call for Papers is therefore highly timely:

The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all aspects of life, including lifelong learning and adult education. It has had a profound impact on the formats, demand, and opportunities for adult education. Most notably, there has been an increase in digital formats and online learning, whereas many forms of in-person instruction were postponed, canceled, or reduced in scope. On the supply side, the pandemic has shaped the conditions under which providers can operate and offer instruction. Regarding participants, demand for adult education has increased in some areas because changes in working and living conditions triggered by the pandemic require new skills and decreased in others due to fear of infection.

As all great disruptions, the pandemic also offers potential for creative innovation and long-term change. Now that the pandemic is in its second year, it is possible to both review the impact the pandemic has had so far as well as take a first outlook at prospective ways in which the past year will transform adult education in the future.

The editors invite submissions that discuss the impact the pandemic has had on adult education, broadly defined. Topics might include but are not limited to changes in instruction and participation, the impact the pandemic has had on educators, learners and institutions, increased digitalization and associated challenges, social inequality and vulnerable groups, and changing demand and supply for specific subfields or subgroups.

The Call is from the leading German journal for adult & further education research, the Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung. The journal is refereed, publishes open access contributions in English and German, and is issued by the prestigious Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung. The CfP will soon appear on the journal’s website, but in the meantime you can send queries to Dr. Kerstin Hoenig of the DIE at:

Bob Fryer, 1944-2020: Adult educator, scholar, advocate and baby-sitter

Bob Fryer is probably most widely known for chairing an influential advisory committee that helped shape New Labour’s policies for lifelong learning. But many people will also have encountered him as a teacher, researcher, advocate, and leader across fields such as industrial relations, employment, and social policy as well as adult learning. His influence in all these areas was far-reaching.

Bob also made an intensely practical contribution. I first met him in the mid-70s, when I was working on my PhD at Warwick University, where Bob was chair of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Our families belonged to the same baby-sitting circle in the Coventry suburb of Earlsdon, so I or my partner occasionally baby-sat his kids and he and his partner Ann baby-sat ours. I also saw him at research seminars in the Sociology Department where he was then a senior lecturer.

I left Warwick in 1978 to start teaching at a new adult college in Barnsley, so the next I heard of Bob was a phone call from him asking a few sharp questions about the college. I didn’t know that he was thinking of applying to become the college’s principal until he was short-listed. Bob led Northern College for fifteen years, at a time when financial and political pressures could easily have ended its life.

I left the college in 1985 to return to Warwick, so I didn’t see Bob’s long term impact at first hand. In the short term, he acted to strengthen the college’s somewhat under-staffed and chaotic administration, bring in Mo Mowlam as a senior administrator (though Mo could be something of an occasional presence, given her other interests); he brought in new groups of learners through his connections with trade unions; he built his own relations with the South Yorkshire councils and the miners’ union (his predecessor, Michael Barratt Brown, had his own ties with these groups, who were vital for the college’s health); he worked hard at wider political connections; he built a close working relationship with Sheffield Hallam University; and he enjoyed teaching the lively students we worked with.

It was an exciting time, and I thought long and hard before making the move to Warwick. One of the attractions of moving was the opportunity to help develop a new department – which itself had been created following a report from a Senate working group that Bob had led, and Bob was generous in advice in the next couple of years. Meanwhile, he was taking the college forward, and also starting to think through some of his ideas for rebuilding adult learning. He knew David Blunkett, who had been one of the college’s governors and as leader of Sheffield City Council was adopting the ideas of policy thinkers like Martin Yarnit, including the pioneering Take Ten scheme of paid educational leave for municipal workers.

So it was no surprise that Bob was involved in New Labour’s policy development around adult learning. Like Blunkett, he had nothing much against Blair’s embrace of education as “our best economic policy”, but what excited him – and Blunkett – was education as a crucible of active citizenship and social justice. He also brought a sardonic wit to his interventions. When some on the left disparaged his focus on getting working class peoiple into university, Bob replied that he noticed that the higher someone’s own qualifications, the more likely they were to proclaim the irrelevance of qualifications for other people.

Bob was an Oxford boy in his origins, but his family background lay in the city’s manufacturing community rather than the university, and he always seemed to treat his roots as a touchstone for his educational thinking. That thinking was probably expressed most eloquently in David Blunkett’s visionary foreword to The Learning Age, which set out the new government’s proposals for lifelong learning. I always assumed (wrongly, though that’s another story) that Bob drafted the foreword, while Blunkett then fine-tuned it.

Turning that vision into policy was another matter. On being appointed secretary of state for education, Blunkett created a number of advisory committees, one of which Bob chaired. The National Advisory Group on Lifelong Learning published its first report in 1997, and Blunkett moved rapidly to move on the main recommendations. Well, on what he saw as the main recommendations: the report devoted by far its longest chapter to recommendations, followed by a chapter on how to manage the process of change.

As a member of the Fryer committee, my impression was that the main lines of actual policy development had been thought out in the years before New Labour came to power in 1997. That wasn’t in itself a bad thing, as the earlier work strengthened Blunkett’s hand when it came to implementing the policies. I can only imagine the horror of senior civil servants – especially at the Treasury – when told to introduce Individual Learning Accounts, the Union Learning Fund, and the University for Industry.

Bob conrinued to play a central role in this period, not only chairing the committee as it produced its second report, but also accepting virtually any invitation to speak about lifelong learning. Indefatigable, he travelled these islands and beyond to generate a wider momentum behind the first report, taking several speaker engagements a week to share his vision of an active and inclusive learning culture that was supported by institutions and funding arrangements that placed learners at their centre.

Most people have long since forgotten the Fryer Committee’s second report, which appeared in 1999. Unlike the first, barely none of true second report had any impact, either on policy or on public debate over lifelong learning. Its title – Creating learning cultures: next steps in achieving the learning age – was promising, but in retrospect it lacked focus, and was missing in analytical precision. We’d learned one lesson from experience: this time we narrowed our recommendations down to eight key and twenty-three supplementary proposals. This was still far too many, of course.

More importantly, Blunkett’s focus had shifted, and he was paying far more attention to the politically-popular – and contentious – area of schools policy. Bob had also moved on, and was running New College at Southampton University, taking an able deputy with him and enjoying a secondment to the University for Industry where he worked with colleagues from the public sector union Unison on proposals for what became the National Health Service University.

Bob’s appointment as the NHSU’s first chief executive was announced in late 2001, and the University opened two years later. For whatever reason – my understanding is that senior civil servants took the first opportunity to kill off something they’d never wanted, Labour politicians were less than supportive, and the workforce formed a perception that Bob had staffed the new body with chums with no health service experience – NHSU was abruptly closed in 2005, and Bob found himself in the role of the NHS’s director for widening participation in learning. Its legacy was minimal, partly because almost all those involved directly in NHSU left the NHS fairly quickly.

Bob continued a wider contribution through other organisations and campaigns, largely in the voluntary sector. He remained a strong supporter of inclusive learning, and he was generous in supporting other woking in the area. In recent years his health deteriorated; the last time I saw him was at a seminar in 2019 to celebrate his work. He was physically frail but mentally lively, still championing the values that he had promoted an a scholar, advocate, practitioner, and activist. It visibly moved him to see so many old friends, colleagues, former students and allies turning out to share memories and expore his old preoccupations and passions.

Now he has left us. My personal memories are of a congenial companion, a generous and supportive colleague, a world-class raconteur, a hard-working colleague, a loving family man, and a committed activist who – though I think unintentionally – made me look closely at work and its transformations, and challenged some of my more orthodox thinking on class and inequalities. As a scholar he was knowledgeable and thoughtful, but for some reason everything he wrote simply got longer and longer; he seems to have needed a selfless co-author or a firm editor to help him get finished.

His most substantial contributions seem to me to have been institutional – just keeping Northern College alive would have been no mean feat, but growing it and protecting its distinctiveness was a real achievement; and political, in the work he put into the early years of New Labour’s first government not just in shaping specific policies, but also in generating support and enthusiasm for those policies. That’s a pretty good memorial, and I think he’d have been proud and happy if that was how we remember him.

The therapeutic value of labour: an official view of asylum farms in 1906

Labourers and supervisors at the Three Counties Asylum, c. 1890

In 1906, the Inspectors of Lunatics for Ireland called on the authorities to increase the number of farms attached to asylums. Their reasoning was that

Not only do large farms attached to asylums afford means of healthy labour in the open air, and an outlet for that restlessness and desire of motion so common among the insane, thus producing quietude and peace where formerly there was noise and excitement, but the interest aroused in agricultural work also brings back the wandering mind to sane views, and so helps to promote recovery.  

Moreover, large tracts of land attached to asylums enable the patients, both male and female, to take extended and varied walks, and to enjoy the open air without encroaching on the public thoroughfares – a course which often gives raise to complaints by the sane community.

(Fifty-eighth Report of the Inspectors of Lunatics (Ireland), for the year ending 31st December 1906)

By this time, farms were a common feature of asylums, as they were to other residential institutions, reflecting a widespread belief in the pedagogic and therapeutic value of outdoor manual work. For an excellent single institutional study, you can do worse than check out A Place in the Country: The Three Counties Asylum, 1869-1990. And for a wider picture of the farm colony movement and its successors, take a look at my book on British work camp systems.

Dracula, gender, and adult learning: Joseph O’Connor’s Shadowplay

Joseph O’Connor’s Shadowplay reimagines the relationship between Bram Stoker, Ellen Terry, and Henry Irving, set against the background of Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula. Stoker’s wife, Florence, is a somewhat absent figure; O’Connor shows her developing an increasingly independent life after her husband is appointed manager of Irving’s new theatre.

The early signs of Flo’s independence appear when she announces that she is going to the British Library to ‘polish my German’ and study the law of copyright. After that, she informs her uneasy husband, she was heading to the Mechanics’ Insitute in High Holborn,triggering the following exchange:

“What is that?”

“An organisation of working men and their families. I mean to offer a series of night lectures there shortly, essentials of reading, writing and algebra. There us a very great need among the poor”.

“You intend to give lessons, dear? To labouring men?”

“And their wives, yes”.

Later on it transpires that Florence had become a respected staff member at the institute, where she was sufficiently influential and courageous to successfully challenge male discrimination.

Whether Florence actually taught in a mechanics institute or not isn’t the point. O’Connor uses this episode both to demonstrate her intellectual independence and to underline her refusal to enter a conventional domestic role, as well as to signal an emergent feminism. He shows Florence as a modern woman with a sense of social responsibility and a mind of her own; her attraction to and involvement in adult education seerves as a symbol of and vehicle for her modernity.

That’s the novel, which I recommend. If you want to know more about the real Florence, there’s a succinct scholarly account in the Dictionary of Irish Biography. And by the time that Florence and Bram were in London, the London Mechanics’ Institute had been renamed as the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution, forerunner of Birkbeck College.

Lexicometric methods in the study of lifelong learning

I was recently asked to provide a foreword to a new study of the troubled relationship between lifelong learning research and European education policy. The author, Lisa Breyer, was formerly a colleague at the University of Cologne, and is now a head of department at the Volkshochschule Rhein-Erft. While her book is in German, she has published lexicometric analyses in English on approaches to social justice in adult education and on comparisons of national adult education policies.

Given the widespread use of ‘critical discourse analysis’ in Anglophone research in our field, I was delighted to read and recommend a rather different and – as I see it – more grounded method of analysing the languages of lifelong learning policy. If you want to read more of Lisa’s own work in English then take a look at the two papers I mentioned above. What follows here is an expanded and slightly reworked English language version of my foreword.

Adult education research has to position itself in a field rich with tensions, which is influenced by scholarly theory, educational policy, and practical pedagogic demands. Unlike most academic disciplines, the study of adult education developed out of the field of practice, and was also shaped by policy measures. At the same time, policy actors increasingly support their decisions with reference to research findings and recommendations, all in the name of evidence-based policy. Relatively few studies so far have been concerned with the relationship between and form of the communication process between research and policy.

In our field at least, this book presents a new approach to policy research. Lisa Breyer has gone beyond standard approaches, contributing both to our understanding of policy influence and to our methodological repertoire, as well as provoking reflection on the much-debated relationship between policy and research, by subjecting a corpus of 288 texts from adult education research and education policy covering a 20-year period to lexicometric analysis. Her findings force us to think again about the relations between policy and research.

While much discourse analysis tends to be based on the researcher’s reading of a relatively small number of texts, Dr Breyer uses lexicometric techniques to examine and compare the ways in which the core concepts of „Lebenslanges Lernen“ (lifelong learning) und „Kompetenz“ (skill) feature in systematically selected papers from the European Commission as well as in journal articles by adult education researchers. Her analysis of the findings sheds light on relations between research and policy in adult education, as well as on the differing ways in which researchers and policy-makers understand, use, and contextualise the basic concepts in the field. Indeed, even where there is a shared use of terms like lebenslanges Lernen and Kompetenz, Breyer’s findings show that the very notion of a field of adult education is often understood very differently by policy actors and researchers.

Although some of these patterns will seem familiar to readers, as in the divergence between the economic and employment focus of policy as against the emancipatory and critical values of researchers, the book provides a rich variety of evidence and  a refined analysis of the complexities and nuances that can be found. She also examines the attention that each party pays to the other: while researchers refer explicitly to the European level of policy, policy-makers implicitly privilege comparative survey data as their main source of research evidence while turning to researchers as a source of evidence-based policy. This evolving relationship, Breyer contends, means that it is necessary to redefine the relationship between research and policy.

These reflections complement other research and publications of the DIE, particularly in respect to system and policy. However, the book also serves as a case study in a relatively new method. Breyer has adapted her lexicometric approach to the discipline of adult education research and applied it to a corpus of 288 texts, and concludes that the method allows us to identify patterns and relationships that cannot be shown by analysing a handful of texts. This seems to me to have wider methodological ramifications for comparative educational research in general, as well as for adult education research in particular. I am not aware of any other lexicometric study in adult education of such scale and ambition; and personally I am convinced that she has abundantly demonstrated the potential of this approach, and thus makes an important contribution to our methodological debates.

Race and immigration in interwar Scottish nationalism

One of the joys of archival research is the many opportunities it offers to get seriously distracted. I was browsing the Stirling Journal and Advertiser for the interwar years in the hope of finding reports relating to work camps. Stirling and Clackmannanshire were both mining areas facing high unemployment; and the Kirk ran a labour colony at Cornton Vale.

The paper was a rich source of material, only some of which ended up in the book. But as usual, I found myself fascinated by reports that had no direct connection to my own study. One was a report of a speech by a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Duncan Cameron of Kilsyth, addressing the weekly luncheon of the City Business Club in Glasgow. According to the edition for 15 April 1926, Cameron told his audience that “unless drastic measures were taken to safeguard the Scottish race in their native land, within the next thirty years the Irish population would be predominant in the industrial areas of Scotland, and that they would be in a position to dictate the lines of policy”.

Cameron had form in this area. He had contributed to the Kirk’s 1923 report on Irish immigration, telling the Kirk’s general assembly that “Scottish nationality would be imperilled and Scottish civilisation subverted” unless Irish immigration were controlled. And the year before he had warned the assembly of the risk of violent warfare. So this was no isolated act, and clearly he was far from alone in the interwar nationalist movement in fomenting alarm over Irish immigration, which he contrasted with the emigration of what he saw as superior Scots.

This is where I can see a link of sorts with my own research focus on work camps, as the Scottish nationalists occasionally claimed that work camps were themselves contributing to the dilution of the Scottish race, by helping prepare men for emigration. And while it isn’t news that interwar nationalist movements were often deeply racist, it’s helpful to remind ourselves occasionally that ideas based on imagined communities can have real consequences.

If you want more on the work camps, check out my book on Brirish work camps before 1940.

Adult education, democracy, and murder in Nordic Noir

In her novel Red Wolf, the Swedish crime writer Liza Marklund bumps off a character who lives in the far northern region of Norrbotten. Margit Axelsson, a one-time Maoist revolutionary in the 60s, now makes a living by teaching ceramics to adults in the remote town of Piteå.

Norbotten, photographed by Simo Rasanen (Creative Commons)

Marklund portrays Swedish adult education, at least as carried out by the Arbetarnas bildningsförbund (AFB, or WEA), as an extension of Margit’s beliefs:

The Workers’ Educational Association had always believed that those who had received the fewest of society’s resources should be compensated through education, cultural activities, and opportunities. he regarded it as jjstice applied in the educational and cultural sphere.

Study groups were a lesson in democracy. They took as their starting point the belief that every inividual has the capacity and desire to develop themselves, to exert influence and take responsibility, that every ndividual is a resource.

And she saw how the members grew, youing and old alike. Whwen they learned to handle the clay and the glazes their self-confidence grew, their understanding of the opinions of others, and, with that, their ability to actively influence what went on in the society around them.

It all ends badly for Margit, but isn’t it interesting to see an author set out such a clear analysis of the wider effects of adult learning? I have no way of knowing whether the study circles of the Arbetarnas bildningsförbund really do have these effects, but I hope so.