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The Value of Adult Learning

by Craig Foden

Jan 27, 2016

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Hi, I’m Craig Foden and I’m currently working for the SROI Network helping with some research and development of the Global Value Exchange. This is the third instalment in a series of blogs. In this blog post I want to share with you some findings from a piece of research into the wider benefits of adult learning.

The Value of Adult Learning 
 

What change are we looking at? (The Outcome)
For this piece of research, the outcome which formed the central point was Adult Learning (change in). This covers a range of activities, from learning in a formal classroom setting towards a nationally recognised qualification, to reading books and attending seminars to increase knowledge around a subject.
According to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in 2010, 69% of adults in England had participated in some form of education during the previous three years.

How do we measure that change? (The Indicators)
I identified five possible indicators which could be used to measure Adult Learning (change in):

% of adults participating in formal education
% of adults participating in informal education
% of adults participating in non-formal education
% of adults participating in non-vocational education
% of adults participating in vocational education

Data relating to these indicators is available from the National Adult Learner Survey (NALS), which contains information and analysis on levels of adult participation in different forms of education. The NALS is published by The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, with releases in 2012, 2005, 2002, 2001 and 1997. Links to the most recent NALS report can be found in the Data Source sections of these indicators.

How do we value this change? (The Valuation)
The valuations used to value Adult Learning use three techniques; 1) Cost or income, 2) Stated preference; contingent valuation - willingness to pay (WTP) and 3) Valuation Wellbeing. Several of the valuations linked to Adult Learning reflect things like the WTP for increased confidence or being a better parent because there was evidence that some adult learning led to these subsequent changes. I felt that these were still relevant for this piece of research due to their close link with Adult Learning and so they are included in the analysis below:
 
Valuation name Value Method Stakeholder
Adult learning course £754 per course per participant Cost or income Adult Learning Providers
Adult learners
WTP for a course which improves life satisfaction £947 per course participant  Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay  
Adult learners
­WTP for a course which improves happiness on a day-to-day basis £826 per participant per course Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay Adult learners
WTP for a course which improves confidence in regards to family and others £690 per course participant Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay Adult learners
WTP for a course which improves confidence as a parent due to adult learning £609 per course participant Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay Adult learners
WTP for a course which keeps the mind and body active
 
£693 per participant per course Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay Adult learners
WTP for a course which improves knowledge or skills £847 per participant per course Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay Adult learners
WTP for a course which allows progression into further learning £897 per course participant Stated preference - contingent valuation - willingness to pay Adult learners
Employment resulting from adult learning £224 per participant per course Valuation Wellbeing Adult learners
Improved health satisfaction resulting from adult learning £148 per participant per course Valuation Wellbeing Adult learners
Improved social relationships resulting from adult learning £658 per participant per course Valuation Wellbeing Adult learners
Voluntary work resulting from adult learning £130 per participant per course Valuation Wellbeing Adult learners

Commentary:
The ‘Cost or income’ technique reflects the cost per participant of a part-time, vocational adult learning course. Initially I thought that this demonstrated the value of the learning from the ‘learners’ perspective. But it also reflects the cost that the provider has in delivering the learning and so this valuation can be seen as relevant to both stakeholder groups. I’d be keen to hear from readers who agree or disagree.
The ‘Cost or income’ technique does have its limitations and is not always the most revealing, but I feel that it provides a useful context to the other valuations. For example, the figure of £754 is quite similar to the WTP valuations. By triangulating these valuations perhaps we can take some comfort that we are in the right range.

The WTP valuations provided plenty of food for thought. There was a consistency between similar valuations e.g. the courses that provided confidence were both valued at approximately £600. The value of courses that led to increased life satisfaction and happiness were also similar at approximately £900.
I was particularly intrigued by the similarity of the WTP valuations for courses that provided improved knowledge or skills and progression to further learning. Both of these are just under £900 per person per course. I found this so interesting because in my recent blog I explored the value of knowledge and information. In that blog I concluded that the approximate value of access to knowledge and information (through access to libraries, museums, galleries and the internet) was around £1000 per person, surprisingly close to these WTP valuations. Although these values represent slightly different things, the similarity of these valuations could be used as a rough indication of the monetary value we place on learning.

This research allowed me to investigate the Valuation Wellbeing technique. I found this technique particularly interesting because it uses data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to assess the statistical relationship between a wide range of life circumstances and self-reported levels of wellbeing. This relationship allows for changes in wellbeing associated with adult learning to be expressed with a monetary value.

The wellbeing valuation technique is useful as it is based on data relating to the actual experiences of individuals and avoids many of the problems associated with the willingness to pay valuations I relied heavily on in my previous research into the value of knowledge and information. For more information on wellbeing valuations (and other valuation techniques) click here.

Using this technique it was found that completing a part time adult learning course led on average to:

• An increase in volunteering with a value of £130 per participant per course
• Improved social relationships with a value of £658 per participant per course
• Increased employment with a value of £224 per participant per course
• Improved health satisfaction with a value of £148 per participant per course

Interestingly, the increase in wellbeing which results from improved social relationships is valued much higher than improvements in health satisfaction, increased levels of employment and increased levels of volunteering. This suggests that the most beneficial aspect of Adult Learning is the chance to meet people and form new friendships. Improving social relationships is an area of particular importance when considering social value generation, as feelings of loneliness and isolation are associated with various negative outcomes such as depression, low life satisfaction and premature death from illness, disease or medical condition.

It is important to note that these valuations only take into account increased feelings of wellbeing for the individual, and not any associated benefits such as income resulting from employment or lower healthcare related expenditure.

Does the change lead to any other changes? (Chain of Events)

Using the Chain of Events feature on the Global Value Exchange, I found that Adult Learning (change in) led to changes in wide range of outcomes including:

Health satisfaction (change in)
Volunteering (change in)
Strength of social network (change in)
Isolation (change in)
Mental health (change in)
Blood pressure (change in)
Promote gender equality and empower women
Qualification (change in possession of)
Paid employment (change in)
Income (change in)
Community cohesion (Change in)
Life satisfaction (change in)

Much of the evidence for the link between Adult learning and these outcomes came from “Valuing the Impact of Adult Learning - An analysis of the effect of adult learning on different domains in life” by Daniel Fujiwara. The report explores in depth how a monetary value can be placed on outcomes associated with adult learning, and would make some great further reading if you find this blog post interesting.
Although this list includes most of the outcomes I expected to see resulting from adult learning (and a few more I didn’t), I was interested in how these impacts branched out. In order to see the wider impacts that Adult learning has on society, I used the new chain of events mapping feature on the Global Value Exchange. This mapping feature displays an interconnecting web of linked outcomes, showing the far reaching impacts of adult learning.

Some of the more unexpected outcomes on the chain of events map were Likelihood of stroke (change in), Death from cancer (change in) and Traffic congestion levels (change in). Although the chain of events map is a great tool for identifying the wider impacts of an outcome, levels of causality should be taken into account as the level of influence that adult learning has on some of these is likely to be very small.

I hope you found this blog post interesting. Please feel free to log in and leave comments and ratings on any of the entries referenced or give me feedback through team@globalvaluexchange.org.







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