The way to lifelong learning

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
LIFELONG LEARNING By Norman Longworth and W K Davies Pounds 18.99 Kogan Page. When planning for a year, sow corn, when planning for a decade, plant trees, when planning for a lifetime, train and educate".

This is just one of a number of thought-provoking quotations that can be found in Lifelong Learning, an excellent book in which the authors Norman Longworth and W Keith Davies define lifelong learning and describe its far-reaching implications for every organisation, nation and individual throughout the world.

The authors have attempted to communicate the "why", "where", "what", "who", "when" and "how" to recognise and develop lifelong learning.

This is a timely publication as it coincides with a number of consultation papers on lifelong learning from the Government and the Labour party.

Lifelong learning concepts, ideas and practices are developing rapidly throughout the world. This book looks at lifelong learning in the context of the major global changes, ranging from the impact of new learning technologies and the changing patterns of employment and society.

The book very effectively develops all the issues that influence the development of a culture of lifelong learning.

In particular, it stresses the need for central government policies to be long term and for those policies and strategies to encourage lifelong learning. Governments need to take radical action by providing incentives for people in work to return to study and by helping with investment in the newer technologies which are changing the shape of education and training. Emphasising the speed of change, the authors say: "Learning accelerates - it is dynamic and is a geometric, not an arithmetic, progression."

High unemployment must now be considered as structural and not cyclical, and, again, a learning society and learning organisations must offer opportunities for all, whether they be in work or not.

The authors make the point that the "tiger economies" have already made a commitment and have started developing a culture of lifelong learning.

The book provides a wealth of ideas on how to implement lifelong learning. The importance of schools and universities and employers is stressed. There are excellent case histories - the work of the Rover company for example - to show how major companies are responding to the challenges of global competition.

One very satisfactory feature of the book is the number of suggestions and ideas for organisationsto consider in defining, developing and implementing lifelong learning.

Lifelong Learning is extremely readable and timely, and presents an abundance of ideas, knowledge and suggestions for learning organisations and the general reader. My only criticism is the lack of reference to colleges of further education; they do not even elicit a reference in the contents section.

The further education sector is the most comprehensive of the educational sectors, working very closely with its community and the employers.

For me this singular lack of recognition detracts from what is otherwise an invaluable publication. It yet again highlights the almost total lack of understanding and appreciation of institutions already well down the road to developing lifelong learning systems. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend this book.

Dick Evans is principal of Stockport College of FHE

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