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Given world enough and time. . .

The MORI poll on attitudes to learning canvassed more than 5,000 adults and children.

It found that 81 per cent of adults agreed that learning new things was a valuable aspect of their life, with 71 per cent believing that learning could lead to a better quality of life.

Two-thirds of adults enjoyed learning at school while only one in five did not - in marked contrast with today's pupils, of whom only half admit enjoying their lessons. However, children were more positive than adults about the amount they learned at school.

Only a third of adults said school had provided the happiest days of their lives.

When asked why people in general might want to learn new things, three-quarters of respondents cited work and career-related reasons. Around a third thought personal development might be important.

Asked why they personally wanted to learn more, around 40 per cent mentioned career reasons but half said it was for personal enjoyment.

When children were asked why they liked learning, 56 per cent said it would help them get a job, 50 per cent because it would help them get qualifications, and 36 per cent mentioned going on to higher education.

Among adults, one in seven said they learned nothing at school relevant to their daily lives apart from the 3Rs. Almost 60 per cent said school did not prepare people for the real world, while 71 per cent would try harder if they had their education over again.

Lack of time was the most frequently mentioned reason for not learning new things (given spontaneously by 20 per cent of adults and a further 31 per cent when prompted). Family commitments and work pressure are also blamed.

Almost 80 per cent agreed that it is easy to find an excuse not to learn new things.

"A lack of awareness of courses and a lack of suitable courses do not appear to be major barriers to participation in learning. Nor does people's attitudes to colleges and learning environments. Apathy and a lack of interest are more important barriers," says the report.

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