It is not perfect. Teaching and assessing adult learners at work and in outreach centres is a nightmare of complexity. But, ask anyone involved in Open College Networks - those outposts for accrediting fragments of work left out of mainstream studies - and you will hear stories of real success.
Adults who failed at school gain a new lease of life on learning with programmes tailored to meet their needs.
Mike Tomlinson's 14 to 19 review group final report has identified what the average college lecturer and workplace tutor has known for years: success lies not in the exam per se nor in the detailed curriculum. It is in the mind of the child or adult - aided by the teacher with careful guidance and selection of suitable studies - that true learning is achieved.
Tomlinson's report offers a real opportunity to address the wider questions of lifelong learning. Colleges may be 20 years ahead of schools in creating personalised learning. But considerable effort is still needed to establish a coherent post-19 framework, for courses such as basic skills, higher education access, apprenticeships and foundation degrees.
However, unless the frameworks pre and post-19 go hand in glove, the whole exercise will have been pointless. As Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says: "Although this report looks at 14 to 19-year-olds, we must extend the opportunities to all groups."
How can this be achieved? New Apprentices offer a model, John Berkeley, a member of the Tomlinson group and chair of the apprenticeships sub-group, points out: "Apprenticeships are already the closest thing we have to a diploma within our current system."
It is not about forcing apprenticeships into the Tomlinson structure but giving young people post-14 full or partial credits towards an intermediate or advanced diploma.
Critics who attack the modular approach to studies called for in the report would benefit from a closer look at colleges and training centres. The Government should give full support for such developments and the ideas aimed at breaking down barriers to lifelong learning as outlined on page 1 by Chris Hughes, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Development Agency.
It is a long haul but Tomlinson is part of a 10-year agenda for 14 to 19 reform. In accepting the recommendations, ministers should extend the ideas post-19.