By Jennifer Leahy

This book is a revision of Marion Bowl’s Adult Education in Changing Times Policies, philosophies and professionalism, which was published in 2014. In both books, Marion questions the demise of publicly funded adult education as well as the loss of experienced adult educators.

The introductory chapters cover the historical and political contexts for adult education in both New Zealand and England and the changing global landscape of adult education and lifelong learning. One of the questions that Marion poses is – why, when lifelong learning has been a policy priority for the past 40 years, does publicly funded adult education appear to be fighting for its life? (Bowl, 2017, P. 3). In response, Marion discusses the power of neoliberalism to dominate liberal/ humanist and radical ideas as well as the disappearance of funding and policy support for adult education in favour of individual responsibility.

The second section responds to the question – why do so many qualified, skilled and experienced adult educators find themselves in an educational landscape that does not recognise or value their contribution? (2017, P. 3). To answer this question Marion interviewed sixty-two English and New Zealand adult educators. I confess to particularly enjoying this section of Marion’s book as it is so refreshing to hear the voices of New Zealand practitioners, which have often been absent in the literature. I enjoyed reading about educators who speak of their ability to view adult education as a channel for furthering and maintaining social justice and democracy as well as discussing their career paths, personal philosophies, changes in practice and the challenges and opportunities they saw for their future. In particular, it was a special thrill to read of recent ACE events in NZ and to see the work of Robert Tobias, Maryke Fordyce, ACE Aotearoa, Sandy Morrison and Timoti Vaioletti mentioned.

In comparison to their English counterparts, NZ adult educators emphasised more of a community and socially oriented perspective which was not underpinned by theory but informed by professional and personal experience.

Generally, educators spoke of their need to manage the contradictions between their beliefs and the expectations placed on them by policy. Marion argues that the space for practitioner agency is limited and that adult educators need to challenge the ways in which the ideologies, policies and the language which circulates around adult education and training operate against democracy, equality and social justice.

Marion ends her book by offering lessons for neoliberal times (Bowl, 2017, P. 155). She claims that the fate of adult education is inextricably bound up with the global economic and political order and suggests the need to engage in debate about the purposes of education. Notably, Marion moves beyond a critique of neoliberalism and offers strategies to encourage adult educators to “link with wider campaigns for equality, social justice and democracy – and to advocate for education’s role in advancing these ideals” (Bowl, 2017, P. 4).

I thoroughly recommend this book and know like me you’ll enjoy reading about adult education in New Zealand as well as trying to recognise the various adult educators that Marion interviewed. The opportunity that Marion Bowl had to work here has indeed been a koha to the academic literature on ACE and adult educators in New Zealand