Reimagining adult learning in community-based contexts: A framework for social justice education in Australia




Adult learning, Social justice education, Further education, Adult community education, Capability framework


In Australia, there is no one cohesive program design or curriculum which provides a framework for adult learning in Adult Community Education (ACE) organisations, with the two major states New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria leading the most developed systems. Many adult learners who learn in these education settings return to study to find pathways to employment, or to re-train for a new role after losing their job. In addition, later-life learners may attend because they want to remain healthy, participate in leisure activities, build friendships and remain active and engaged in their later years. Many of the learners are ‘second chance learners’ who have had prior negative experiences with the neoliberal system which assesses, ranks, and categorises learners according to their academic abilities. In this paper, we propose a comprehensive framework for the delivery of pre-accredited training in Australia, founded on social constructivist theory, learner-centred pedagogy, and course design enhanced by Nussbaum’s Capability Framework. We commence the article by delivering a context for adult education policy and social justice education in the development of the ACE system. What we mean by a socially just education is one in which all people access a critical and democratic curriculum with equity and access to resources at its core. In this paper, we argue for the importance of adult learning, which is holistic, flexible, and nimble to cater for diverse learners and learning needs. Social justice education of this kind, delivered to diverse learners, requires a comprehensive epistemological and theoretical framework for practice that considers learners’ prior experiences of learning, one which accounts for learners’ existing knowledge, skills and experiences and education that provides well-developed pathways to further education and training.


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First page of Ollis and Foley 2023 article






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