A New Vision for Lifelong Learning

According to an editorial in the Guardian, “a campaign is growing around a new vision for lifelong learning.


We might well ask why it’s taken so long for the Guardian and others to develop such a vision, and when was the last time anyone raised lifelong learning and adult education as major issues that need to be addressed as matters of urgency?

[From our archive, written in 2012: https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/loving-learning-and-lifelong-learning]

Key quotes from the Guardian article.

“Something important has been lost in Britain: between 2009 and 2017, the number of part-time students in higher education fell by 53%. Where once there was a thriving culture of colleges, courses and evening classes, now the number of adults who study in later life is far lower than in other countries.

Of the £20bn that the government spends annually on post-19 education, 93% goes on those who already have qualifications up to level 3 (A-levels).

Starting in the 19th century, a whole system grew up around working men’s colleges, workers’ educational associations and universities. By the early 21st century, the intrinsic value of such institutions, and the myriad opportunities they represented, had largely been discarded in favour of a much more instrumental view of “skills” as an asset to be traded.

The failure to invest in a skilled workforce is part of a much bigger deficit in long-term, strategic thinking – which the modern Conservative party appears to have abandoned in favour of a blind and dangerous faith in laissez-faire economics.

Around 9 million adults in Britain have low levels of numeracy and literacy, which is a waste of talent. Investing in community-led adult learning in towns such as Rochdale has led to wider savings in health and policing.

It is time that politicians, and civil society, took more notice of the many other settings in which people, especially those who need a second chance at education, can be helped to thrive.”

It’s a national scandal that thriving networks of adult education have been defunded, abandoned and neglected, and evening classes closed. Smarter countries than ours see the unfulfilled potential of its citizens and invest accordingly. In Britain the bogus need for “austerity” has utterly devastated adult education services, especially in parts of the country that could ill afford to lose them. The ideological drive to shrink the size of the state and state provisions for further education and adult education has made a mockery of claims of wanting to “level up”.

Furthermore, an obsession with “driving up standards” has dominated all thinking about our state’s provision of education. This has applied to Labour, coalition (the Gove era) and Tory governments. We’ve written frequently about the single focus on “attainment” – meaning outcomes of high stakes timed tests and exams, and there’s little point adding more in this post.

On the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown let’s take time to consider the fact that an absence of exam results for two consecutive years has not brought about the downfall of our civilisation. It was high time we paid some attention to the unnecessary timed test and exams we inflict on our young people – another subject we’ve commented on regularly. Our focus on young people’s wellbeing and mental health will always be our prime concern. As we continue to point out – other countries do things very differently, and in doing so they reap important gains.

Our recent posts have been directed at the need for a new way of looking at our system of education in a post-covid age. Let’s include a new vision for adult education and lifelong learning in that changed system.


3Di blogposts Post Covid

Initial thoughts on post-covid education: April 2020

A new education paradigm: May 2020

Moving on, moving forward with education: June 2020

The importance of valuing all learning: December 2020

Progressing education after Covid: February 2021

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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