Ministry of Reconstruction’s Final Report on Adult Education

In 1919, the Ministry of Reconstruction’s adult education committee published a Report on Adult Education, arguing that a population educated throughout life was vital for the future of the country. The report set the groundwork for British adult education during the 20th century. 

What was The Ministry of Reconstruction?

The Ministry of Reconstruction was established under Lloyd George’s wartime coalition government in 1917. Its aim was to oversee rebuilding “the national life on a better and more durable foundation”. Its adult education committee was chaired by A.L. Smith, Master of Balliol College, Oxford. The committee’s 19 members included leading public figures from the worlds of business, trades unions, religions, academia, and key figures in adult education, including the historian R.H. Tawney, and the founder of the WEA, Albert Mansbridge. 

Why was the report such an important milestone? 

The 1919 Report provided a template under which adult education, oriented towards building a democratic and tolerant civil society, flourished through most of the 20th century. Adult education – committed to enriching the communities where people live and work – constituted a vital, if often unacknowledged, part of the social fabric. 

The 1919 Report’s ringing assertions of principle laid the foundations: 

  • “Adult education is a permanent national necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, and therefore should be both universal and lifelong”; it “should be spread uniformly and systematically over the whole community”.
  • “We need to think out educational methods and possibilities from the new point of view … of the adult learning to be a citizen”.
  • The state “should not … refuse financial support to institutions, colleges and classes, merely on the ground that they have a particular ‘atmosphere’ or appeal to students of this type or that. All that it ought to ask is that they be concerned with serious study.”

You can read more about the report here