Progress towards a learning society is piecemeal and uneven, ministers told. Ngaio Crequer reports
A HUGE shift in the nation's culture to instil a craving for learning in every adult and child is essential to the country's future, government advisers said this week.
It will be necessary to "infiltrate" into people's everyday lives to get them to switch to learning. People must be motivated, given space and time to reach out for learning and the need should be implanted even before a child starts school.
The second report of the National Advisory Group for Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, says only a movement across all of society, and not just a campaign, will achieve success.
"In our country today, far too many people are still locked in a culture which regards lifelong learning as either unnecessary, unappealing or unavailable. Once schooling or immediate post-school education is over, they want nothing more of learning than it should largely leave them alone, " says the group, chaired by professor Bob Fryer.
"To some, the notion of 'lifelong' learning sounds more like a penal sentence than an invitation to pleasure, achievement and progress."
The report is supplementary advice to the Government, following the publication of The Learning Age Green Paper last year. There were more than 3,000 responses to that paper and the Fryer group says it is now timely to build on that interest and systematically move lifelong learning up the national agenda.
"We have in mind a determined and, imaginative initiative to parallel those mounted for educational standards or healthy living." So far there has only been piecemeal and uneven progress towards creating a learning society, says the group, and "it is not yet evident that that there is full acceptance even at the heart of government of the value of including lifelong learning across a range of initiatives."
The school curriculum, and its delivery, should be designed to stimulate a love of learning. All institutions which provided learning would need to change their way of working. "Structures, procedures, language, curricula, learning environments, teaching methods and systems of support for learners will all need modifying." Every institution supported by public funds should have performance targets for reaching potential learners.
Employment contracts should ensure that both employers and employees have a commitment to workplace learning. Trade unions should bargain for members' learning at work, and also provide it themselves.
The report says it is concerned about the current down-turn in demand from mature students and calls for research to discover the reasons. Support could be provided by way of special bursaries.
Access to new forms of learning, including information and communication technology should be universal. Learning-friendly environments should be promoted by competitions for shopping centres and workplaces that provide opportunities to learn.
The advisory group says legislation should be considered to oblige all terrestrial broadcasting channels to educate as well as entertain and inform.
Creating Learning Cultures: Next Steps in Achieving the Learning Age. Available from the DFEE website. DFEE.gov.uk