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Foggy Forest


Thriving Communities Transforming Aotearoa

Colin McGregor

Colin Mc Gregor photo.JPG

The vision of Adult and Community Education (ACE)Aotearoa New Zealand is “Thriving Communities Transforming Aotearoa”. This is as important today as any time in the last 10 years. Adult Learning provides a wide range of courses that enable learners to scaffold into the formal education system, learn for the love of learning and learn about events that are impacting society as a whole.  The Ministry of Education Tertiary Education Strategy has a priority of investing in Adult and Community Education to provide more learners with accessible education and pathways to further education, training and employment. 

The incorporation of Adult and Community Education in strategic government documents is a result of focussed efforts by ACE Aotearoa including the presentation of data on the impact of Adult Education interventions ( ACE Environmental Scan, 2021).



In Aotearoa New Zealand we are facing many of the challenges similar to other countries around the globe. Climate change is biting with unprecedented adverse weather events, particularly storms and flooding. We have had threats to our democracy, as evidenced by a 5-week occupation of our parliament grounds by hundreds of disaffected people. Our economy has suffered due to the impact of global events, in particular the Ukraine war, which has led to record inflation and interest rates. Adult learning provides the opportunity for people to learn about what is happening in the world and what can be done to make a difference.

Whilst Adult Learning has become more important and more relevant it was under threat during the COVID epidemic. Many other parts of society and the education system could quickly pivot to new ways of offering learning but adult learning was constrained by limited access to devices and the cost of linking to the internet. Adult Learning also creates and supports community and this was challenged by the inability of learners to meet in person with each other.

One of the brightest contributions adult learning has made to our society is the provision of Māori language courses. These courses have been made accessible and affordable and are incredibly popular. In a society that has as its founding document a Treaty that acknowledges the rights of the “tangata whenua” – people of the land –  Māori- this is significant.

Over the past 10 years, Adult Learning has become increasingly valued in society.  In particular, in the last 6 years with a government that has not only visibly supported Adult Learning but also invested increased funding to ensure that the sector survives and thrives. The opportunity to participate in Adult Learning is even more essential in times of uncertainty. However, Adult Learning operates on the margins of the education system, and in times of constrained budgets, recent gains may be less secure in the future.

About the Author

Colin McGregor is from Aotearoa/New Zealand. He has had an extensive career in the New Zealand Public Sector, mostly in the Ministry of Education. A strong supporter of Adult Education he was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Adult and Community Education Aotearoa, the lead agency for Adult Education in New Zealand. He held this position for 5 years. He is currently on the PIMA Executive Committee. A lifelong learner himself he has a Masters in Business Administration, a Masters in Psychology, and an Executive Master in Public Administration. Email:


Ministry of Education. (2020). The statement of National Education and Learning Priorities and the Tertiary Education Strategy 2020.New Zealand Government.

ACE Aotearoa. (2021). ACE Environmental Scan 2021.




Picture of the Arahura Marae, Hokitika. The event is the annual Adult and Community Education Aotearoa Hui Fono  (meeting) for Māori and Pacifica ACE practitioners. 

Courtesy of Colin McGregor

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