PARTICIPATION numbers in adult education courses have plummeted from 15,080 in 2011-12 to just 3319 in 2012-13, Education Department statistics reveal.
Stakeholders have blamed the five-fold decline on the government's full cost recovery model for adult education programs.
Enrolments in adult education programs - now called lifestyle and leisure programs - fell well short of targets required for the sector to break even during 2012-13.
Eleven thousand enrolments were needed to recover costs in the past financial year, but just 3319 enrollments were recorded. Adult education pilates instructor Kinga Sascha Kielar-Coe said shrinking enrolments in lifestyle and leisure courses was a massive loss to the community.
"There are some things that are so worthwhile that you can't actually put a commercial value on them," she said. "Adult education is an incredible community resource that brings isolated people together."
Ms Kielar-Coe said it was not fair to put prices on programs that made them inaccessible to ordinary people on tight budgets.
Education Minister Nick McKim has defended the full cost recovery model for adult education. "We have to keep the system financially viable, and protect taxpayers from big potential losses," he said.
Mr McKim said the demand for adult education courses had fallen in recent years, as more private operators have entered the market. "Many traditional courses are still available, but through private providers," he said.
Opposition education and skills spokesman Michael Ferguson said adult education was enduring a "slow death". "With only 50 per cent of Tasmanians functionally literate, Mr McKim's destruction of our adult education system is shameful," he said.
"Once an advocate for adult education, now as education minister it is Mr McKim who is overseeing its slow death under a model of full cost recovery, which he introduced." Mr Ferguson said the Liberal Party was committed to revitalising the struggling adult education sector.