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community education in scotland

The vision and role of community education in Scotland. A review and booklist.

Following the Alexander Report (1975) most authorities in Scotland restructured their youth and community and adult education services into community education services. Since then there have been numerous debates as to what community education is, and how it should be organized. The latter has come in for particular attention with the implementation of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill 1994. The former remains a problem - especially with an increased political emphasis on lifelong learning. At the same time in Scotland there has been a renewed interest in the idea of popular education among some academics and practitioners (Crowther, Martin and Shaw 1999).

From the start 'community education' tended to have an organizational hue. The Alexander Report recommended that 'adult education should be regarded as an aspect of community education and should with the youth and community service, be incorporated into a community education service'. (HMSO, 1975: 35). As the Working Party on Professional Education and Training for Community Education highlighted back in 1977, there are some familiar elements involved:

We consider the concept of community education to be consistent with current international thinking about education as a whole, as represented for example by the phrases 'education permanente', 'recurrent education', and 'continuing education'. It reflects a view of education as a process (a) which is lifelong; (b) in which the participants should be actively and influentially involved and the traditional stress on teaching outweighed by the emphasis put on learning and (c) in which the needs of the participants rather than the academic subject divisions or administrative and institutional arrangements should determine the nature and timing of provision. (HMSO, 1977: 6)

Many, including Kirkwood (1990) and Nisbet (1984), have criticised the ambiguity of the Scottish version of community education, arguing that it lacks a theoretical basis. Ted Milburn (1994) has summarized the underlying concerns as follows:

Milburn goes on to comment,

Certainly in the days following the publication of the Alexander Report and partly inspired by its text, community education was claimed to be a service available from the cradle to the grave and was considered to be all embracing. Characterised as informal in style, responsive to popular demand, reflecting local communities, embodying voluntarism, and stimulating self help it values people's experience. It is seen by Kirkwood (1990: 323) as a reaction to the ethos of traditional formal education in Scottish schools, colleges and universities.

Following growing concern around training and common standards, CeVe Scotland was established to create some structures and agreed processes and outcomes. The definition used by them has been influential. Community education is:

A process designed to enrich the lives of individuals and groups by engaging with people living within a geographical area, or sharing a common interest, to develop voluntarily a range of learning, action and reflection opportunities, determined by their personal, social, economic and political needs.

As an approach, this is less education for community, than education in the community.


Further reading and references

Here I have tried to identify some of the more influential texts dealing with both the notion and the practice of 'community education' that have appeared over the last 25 years. I have also included details of some of the more significant reports etc.

Barr, A. (1991) Practising Community Development. Experience in Strathclyde, London: Community development Foundation. 184 + xii pages. Important long-term study of the activities of community development workers - one of the few substantial studies of community work in the UK. Barr examines the nature of community work; how workers view their practice (their aspirations, managers, politicians and community groups); and the relationship of community work with the state (local and central); with community participation and social action; and with local community interests.

Barr, A., Hamilton, R. and Purcell, R. (1996) Learning for Change. Community education and Community Development, London: Community Development Foundation. 202 pages (A4). Substantial study undertaken for the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department that gives a flavour of then current practice and concerns. Part one provides a background to the study, and looks at defining community education and community development. Part two maps the dimensions of community development in community education providing an introduction and analysis. Part three contains 80 pages of case studies (17 in all); and Part is a commentary on and analysis of the case studies. An appendix provides a useful historical perspective on community development.

Bidwell, L. and McConnell, C. (eds.) (1982) Community Education and Community Development, Dundee: Dundee College of Education. 131 + v pages (A4). Contains 15 chapters exploring different aspects of community education. These range from reviews of definitions and models through discussions of work in different settings to areas like feminism, and participant control and community education, and community arts and community schools. An important overview of the Scottish scene at that time.

Crowther, J., Martin, I. and Shaw, M. (eds.) (1999) Popular Education and Social Movements in Scotland Today, Leicester: National Institute od Adult Continuing Education. 312 pages. Collection of 25 varying chapters split into sections on theorising popular education and social movements; historical perspectives; social and cultural actio; and struggles in practice. Some of the earlier, 'theoretical' and historical chapters are especially useful.

Grant, D. (1989) Learning Relations, London: Routledge. 146 + xiii pages. Account of a Glasgow-based project which aimed to improve children's 'active learning' through encouraging the participation of parents and co-operation with professionals. The role of language is highlighted.

Kirkwood, G. and Kirkwood, C. (1989) Living Adult Education. Freire in Scotland, Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Account of a project that attempted to apply Freirian thinking/practice.

McConnell, C. (ed.) (1996) Community Education. The making of an empowering profession, Edinburgh: Scottish Community Education Council. 372 + viii pages. This book is a collection of 32 readings dealing with the development of the community education profession in Scotland. It is divided into sections dealing with the challenge of change; the boundaries of change; training for change; measuring change; and changing challenges. McConnell provides a substantial introduction.

Nisbet, J., Hendry, L., Stewart, C. and Watt, J. (1980) Towards Community Education. An evaluation of community schools, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press. 136 pages. Major study of community education in Grampian Region. They argue that community education has six distinctive elements: mutually supportive relationships between school and community; shared facilities; community-oriented curriculum; lifelong education; community involvement in decision-making and management; community development. [Out of print].

Nisbet, J. and Watt, J. (1994) Educational Disadvantage in Scotland. A 1990s perspective, Edinburgh: Scottish Community Education Council. 112 pages. Examines the nature of social exclusion; the various strategies used to reduce educational disadvantage; and new priorities around early education; school and community and continuing education. Follow-on from the authors' (1984) report Educational Disadvantage: Ten years on, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Scottish Office Education Department (1992) The Education of Adults in Scotland, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Awaiting annotation

Alexander, D. J., Leach, T. J.. & Steward, T. G. (1984) A Study of Policy, Organisation and Provision in Community Education and Leisure and Recreation in three Scottish Regions, Department of Education: University of Edinburgh.

Grampian Regional Council (1988) Education for the Community. The Review of Community Education in Grampian, Aberdeen.

Kirkwood, C. (1990) Vulgar Eloquence. From Labour to Liberation. Edinburgh: Polygon.

Lothian Regional Council (1989) Learning to Change - Community Education into the 90s, Edinburgh.

Milburn, T. (1990) 'The Community Education Service and its Role in Developing teaming Opportunities for Adults', in Corner, T. (Ed.) Learning Opportunities for Adults, London: Routledge.

Milburn, T. (1994) 'Community education - a case study from Scotland' in YMCA George Williams College ICE301 Community Education, London: YMCA George Williams College.

Principal Community Education Officers, Scotland (1992) Community Development in the Community Education Service, SCEC, Edinburgh

Scottish Community Education Council (1990) CeVe Scotland: Preservice Training for Community Education Work, Edinburgh: SCEC-

Scottish Community Education Council, Training for Change: a report on community education training, Edinburgh: SCEC.

Steward, T. (1990) 'The Development of Community Education in Scotland since the Publication of the Alexander Report: the Challenge of Change' in Corner, T., Learning Opportunities for Adults, London: Routledge.

Tayside Regional Council (1986) Report of Working Group Reviewing Community Education, Dundee.

Some key reports

HMSO (1964) Children and Young Persons in Scotland (The Kilbrandon Report), Edinburgh

HMSO (1968) Community of Interests, Edinburgh.

HMSO (1969b) The Education (Scotland) Act, Edinburgh.

HMSO (1975) Adult Education: The Challenge of Change, (The Alexander Report), Edinburgh.

HMSO (1977) Professional Education and Training for Community Education, Edinburgh.


© Mark K. Smith 1996. Last update: July 08, 2014