Informed choices about styles

25th May 2001 at 01:00
ALAN Tuckett's article (FE Focus, May 11) touched on what Henry Morris, founder of Cambridgeshire village colleges, described as the "dismal dispute between vocational and non-vocational learning".

Morris hoped that this dispute would have no place in the life of his village colleges between the wars. Alas, the dispute endured and was fuelled by the funding methodologies of the 1990s where perfectly respectable non-vocational adult education courses were shoe-horned into accreditation frameworks to put them on to the magical Schedule 2 to lever out pennies from the Further Education Funding Council.

In interviews with learners for my MEd on lifelong learning, a pattern emerged of people with a broad range of self-defined learning goals signing up for accredited courses because they were available and funded. The accreditation formed a constraint on meeting the genuine learning needs of the participants.

The work of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and the Learning and Skills Devlopment Agency (LSDA) "to capture the assessment of achievements on non-accredited courses" is very welcome. The adult learning sector owes its learners a funding system which takes account of the diversity of learning outcomes and one which particularly values learner-defined outcomes.

We need to encourage structures, which engage students actively in defining their goals and in making informed choices about learning methodologies to suit their life styles and preferred learning styles.

We see the introduction of ICT as a great stimulant to new adult learning through initiatives such as Learndirect and the UK online centres.

A more enlightened approach to recognising achievement will ensure that we move ahead in the 21st century with a strong commitment to education for adults and not training in sequential button-pressing to collect certificates.

I wish NIACE and LSDA all power to their word-processors in this crucial task.

Alastair Clark

34 Willowbath Lane Wirksworth Derbyshire

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