Over 80 per cent of African adults in Britain are engaged in formal learning, more than the general British adult population, a survey published this week shows.
The analysis of the 2002 Labour Force Survey of ethnic minority participation in UK education reveals markedly different patterns of learning among minorities.
While 78 per cent of the general adult population aged 16 to 64 is engaged in learning, just over half of Pakistanis and 48 per cent of Bangladeshis are participating. This is in contrast to 84 per cent of African adults, and 71 per cent of Chinese and Indians surveyed.
"The system is dramatically more effective at serving the needs of some communities than others," says the report, produced jointly by the Department for Education and Skills and the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education.
"This analysis shows there is an absolute need to focus on those groups who are underrepresented in learning as well as women from a number of ethnic minority groups," the report says.
The survey found that in the general population a higher proportion of men are engaged in learning - 72 per cent - compared with 64 per cent of women.
This trend is replicated among the minority ethnic population with the exception of Caribbean and Chinese women, who are more likely to be learners than men.
Married adults in the general population are more likely to be learners (70 per cent) than singles (64 per cent). But the opposite is true of minority groups.
In general, those under the age of 30 are more likely to be learning than older people. The decline in participation is steep over the age of 55 with the exception of Africans - 43 per cent of those aged 65 and over are still taking part in learning.
In both general and minority populations, those in higher socioeconomic classes are more likely to be learners - 94 per cent of minority adults in managerial and professional occupations. African and Caribbean groups again show greatest involvement.
Light and Shade by Fiona Aldrige and Alan Tuckett, www.niace.org.uk