The learning resolution
DETERMINED to quit smoking? Cutting down on the booze? Why not try something really demanding, like learning something new?
The Campaign for Learning, in conjunction with The TES, is urging everyone to make a New Year resolution that can transform their lives. It doesn't matter what: it might be, like broadcaster Angela Rippon, a determination to brush up on your French or, like Baroness Young, to identify all the major species of whales.
The campaign - intended to popularise and promote lifelong learning - has widespread backing from industry, schools and colleges and celebrities.
The benefits of learning can go beyond the financial gains qualifications can bring, or the confidence and pleasure of acquiring new skills. Recent scientific research suggests that learning can even promote the growth of brain cells. Other research suggests that active learners live longer, so you could be making New Year's resolutions for many years to come.
Who's learning what in 1999?
The following are just some of the people who have given the campaign their learning resolutions for 1999:
Chris Woodhead, chief inspector, the Office for Standards in Education. "My New Year's learning resolution is to learn to be more assertive and forthright in all my communications."
Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal Democrats. "My New Year's learning resolution is to improve my French. Our first grandchild was born last year in France and I want to be able to speak to him more fluently in his own first language."
Richard Branson, chief executive, Virgin plc. "Every time I've tried to beat a ballooning or ocean record, I've learned enough to make me determined to have another go. If you don't keep learning you might as well pack it in."
Sir John Daniel, vice-chancellor of the Open University. "My project for 1999 is to take the Open University's course - You, your computer and the Net - for two reasons. First, to make me more competent with the technology I use daily. Second, to see what I think of the OU's first entirely web-based course. "
David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary. "I resolve to read more non-political fiction in the National Year of Reading as non-fiction is so often what politicians read all the time."
Michael Fish, BBC weather forecaster. "I'd like to learn to play the drums. It's an urge that I have."
Lord Puttnam, adviser to the Department for Education and Employment, film-maker and Campaign for Learning patron. "In 1999 I aim to learn to get onto the Internet and to effortlessly send and receive e-mail."
Angela Rippon, broadcaster. "My learning activity is to improve my language skills in French. Each week I have an hour's lesson with a French tutor in French conversation. I have been taking lessons for just over a year and will continue throughout 1999."
Sir Christopher Ball, Campaign for Learning patron. "I've chosen cooking as my learning aim for 1999. As a boy, back in the 40s and 50s, we went to woodwork lessons and the girls went to cooking classes so I was never taught to cook at school. Men of my generation didn't learn how to cook. 1999 is going to be the year when I become a decent family cook, good enough to invite friends round and say to my wife, 'I'll do the dinner tonight'."
William Hague MP, leader of the Conservative party. "High on my list of priorities of 1999 is learning more of the Welsh language from Ffion. It is quite a task!"
Clair Wardell, newly-qualified teacher, Peers School, Oxford. "I'd like to learn how to be more organised and would also like to use my teaching to travel."
Professor Bob Fryer, chair National Advisory Group on Lifelong Learning. "During 1999 I resolve to learn to recognise, by sight and sound, birds usually found in the south of England."
Baroness Young of Old Scone, chairman of English Nature. "I want to learn to identify at sea the major whale species of the world."
Bill Lucas, chief executive, Campaign for Learning. "I want to find out a lot more about some of the new developments in brain science - how we learn most effectively. I keep chancing upon intriguing snippets and would love to know more."
Doug McAvoy, general secretary, National Union of Teachers. "Trying to find a psychology course which would enable me to understand better the reasons for otherwise intelligent politicians being addicted to unfair criticism of teachers."
Libby Purves, broadcaster and writer. "I want to improve my skills on the penny-whistle, especially learning how to do trills."
Jude Kelly, artistic director, West Yorkshire Playhouse. "I would like to learn about the map of human potential: how the brain can develop or stagnate and how this relates to success or underachievement. The more we know about brain science the more we can consider how education and community experience can be tailored to help the individual."
Maggie Semple, head of education, New Millennium Experience Company. "By the end of 1999 I will be able to stand in the Dome and greet French children in French."
David Melville, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council. "I want to learn advanced Powerpoint (a program used for making public presentations) and astronomy in 1999."
David Hart, general secretary, National Association of Headteachers. "In 1999 I plan to learn more about Third World needs because the future of civilisation depends on its future progress."
David Svendsen, chairman Microsoft UK, Campaign for Learning Trustee. "I am going to embark on a cooking course and learn Spanish. I also plan to get up to date with recent research about the mind. I am fascinated by this subject. We have barely begun to understand how the learning process works in the brain. I have just turned 50. It's a very interesting thought that I could actually be smarter at 100 than I am at 50. Let's hope that that is the case."
Chris Baines, naturalist, broadcaster and Heritage Lottery trustee and folk singer. "I want to learn to play bues guitar."
Chris Humphries, chair of the National Skills Taskforce, said: "I want to learn a sound underpinning of economic theory."
John Dunford, general secretary, Secondary Heads Association. "In 1999 I plan to use the Internet without wasting too much time."
Sir Bob Reid, chairman, Sears plc. "I am going to learn more about Captain Kidd."
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. "I'd like to teach the Government to understand teachers better."
TES readers can add their own resolution by visiting the campaign's website at www.campaign-for-learning.org.uk