Lifelong learning in challenging times: An agenda for a new government
In the run up to the General Election in 2010, NIACE published an agenda for lifelong learning, which reflected the range of challenges that the country and the new Government would face. In the post-election era, these principles remain valid, although the details are now being shaped by the new skills strategy and the comprehensive spending review settlement.
The challenges - identified in NIACE's Agenda 2010 Lifelong Learning in Challenging Times - are:
- financial - to ensure effective recovery from global recession;
- demographic - to prepare for half a million fewer young people entering the labour market in the coming decade, a rapidly growing older population and greater international labour market flexibility;
- technological - to match the pace of innovation and entrepreneurialism of our trading partners;
- environmental - to secure a low carbon economy and greater sustainability;
- social - to secure social justice, community cohesion, and to minimise the negative impacts of inequality; and
- democratic - to encourage active citizenship and strengthen trust in representative democracy locally and nationally.
We believe that the failures in the banking sector must not be allowed to deflect the UK from investing in lifelong learning that will help avoid such problems in the future.
Alan Tuckett, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:
"There's a serious risk that the short-term pressures on public finances will disguise the central importance of lifelong learning in securing community cohesion as well economic competitiveness. We believe that the failures in the banking sector must not be allowed to deflect the UK from investing in lifelong learning that will help avoid such problems in the future. As a result NIACE has prepared this agenda for the new Government to pave the way to a learning society."
NIACE recommends that the new Government should focus on the following key principles.
- Inclusivity - NIACE evaluates adult education and training by the extent to which they help those adults who have benefited least from their initial learning and who face particular barriers to study. NIACE believes special consideration must be given to educational opportunities for older people and believes that the new government should consider the introduction of an older learners' entitlement.
- Equitable contributions - Building a learning society will require increased investment by everyone - individuals, employers and government alike. Public money should not be used to displace existing private sector spending - and that it is the job of employers to train staff for their current and anticipated economic activities.
- Range of learning opportunities - The public benefits of education and training are not limited to particular subjects or levels of study. They can be measured through the behaviours and attitudes of adults who identify themselves as learners.
- Building adults' capabilities - NIACE believes that the new government should introduce a common curriculum framework which would represent the state's offer to its adult population. This would include measures to build:
- health capability;
- financial capability;
- civic capability; and
- digital capability.
- Family Learning - The capability of adults to be good parents, grandparents or carers is vital to the learning society. Families have more impact on the educational success of children than do schools. NIACE urges the new government to take an expansive approach to family policy in respect of learning by ensuring that the needs of adults are given parity with the learning needs of children.
Alan Tuckett continued:
"We desperately need a society where there is widespread understanding and confidence that we can learn our way out of our current difficulties, and lay the foundations for a future that values the contributions every single citizen can make to the well-being and prosperity of the nation. These contributions, given the right support, can lead to vibrant and inclusive communities, entrepreneurial, innovative and successful businesses and public services, and to making the world a better place for our children."