Better Educated Adults Produce Safer Communities Conducive to Learning
In a five year program of research, Shirley Brice Heath and associates studied a wide variety of different community organizations serving inner-city youth in the United States.4 (p.5) They found that over 90 percent of the organizations were described by local city officials as serving "communities suffering from poverty, crime, severe ethnic tensions, teenage pregnancies, and broken homes."
In San Diego, California, USA, a study of the community being served by four adult continuing education centers confirmed many of the findings of Brice Heath and associates.5 (p. 16) Compared to the total San Diego area, in the inner-city community there was more crime, teenage pregnancy, high infant mortality, unemployment, and poverty. Importantly, more than one in five of the adults 25 years of age or older in the inner-city community had fewer than nine years of education, while in the surrounding communities less than one in 17 of the adults had fewer than nine years of education.
Communities of better educated adults who are workers, citizens, and parents may attract better paying jobs into the community which provide a higher tax base that will support better social services (law enforcement, day care, recreational facilities, transportation, etc.), and promote a safer, supportive community that can produce drug and violence free schools and influence better teaching and greater success for children in school .
In one workplace education project in the U.S., management, labor union members, and educators got together at AC Rochester in upstate New York, a supplier of components for General Motors automobile manufacturing, and developed adult education programs in basic education, English as a second language, secondary school completion and basic reading skills programs. This was done because it was discovered that many employees could not benefit from training that was needed to convert the manufacturing plant to a high performance organization in which each worker had to take on more responsibility for quality control, work scheduling and so on. As a consequence of the company's reorganization and education programs, a new billion dollar contract was signed with a foreign nation and General Motors moved new work into the plant.6(pp..49-55) This suggests that organizational changes and greater investments in adult education may lead to economic growth in the community and provide a better tax base for community activities and facilities.
Better Educated Adults Demand and Get Better Schooling for Children
Improved education of adults may lead not only to a better tax base and community social services, it may also stimulate a greater interest on the part of parents to become involved with the education of their children. Research by the Wider Opportunities for Women in Washington, DC, USA, studied the effects of women's participation in basic skills training on (1) their behavior toward their children, (2) their interactions with teachers and participation in school activities, and (3) their children's behavior in school.7
Mothers reported that, as a result of their participation in the basic skills programs, they spent more time with their children talking about school, helping with homework, and other activities. They spent more time going to and helping with school activities and they talked more with teachers about their children's education. (see figure 1.2, along with comparable data from the National Center for Family Literacy in 1994;12 all improvements are statistically reliable). WOW mothers also reported that their children liked and attended school more, and they made improvements in their school grades, test scores, and reading.