Britain needs a new approach to lifelong learning

Evidence from the Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, which publishes its main report today, shows how important it is to get a fresh perspective on what is invested, by whom and on what. The IFLL analysis shows that around £55 billion is spent annually, with the vast bulk of this (86 per cent) spent on under 25, most of whom are full-time HE students.

In his speech to Progress on Monday, Peter Mandelson said that Labour would, “find the cash for productive social investments in the nation’s future such as education at all levels, including early years, and also research and vital public infrastructure.” He also spoke about co-payment, with employers and individuals financing training as well as the state. Evidence from the Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, which publishes its main report today, shows how important it is to get a fresh perspective on what is invested, by whom and on what.

The IFLL analysis shows that around £55 billion is spent annually, from all sources (state, employers, individuals) on all forms of education and training for those over 18. The vast bulk of this (86 per cent) goes on those under 25, most of whom are full-time HE students. Given demographic change, with older age groups growing fastest, this is a gross misallocation – socially unjust and economically inefficient. “Learning Through Life”  proposes a readjustment of the proportions spent, over time, to better reflect the changing profile of the population. Most people both want and need to work longer – but are not given access to the learning opportunities they need to do it.  Reducing the 86 per cent spent on under 25s to 80 per cent would free up over £3 billion for those over 25.

The ‘demographic dividend’ will allow us, over the next 10 years or so, substantially to increase the amounts invested in learning by all adults, without decreasing the per capita spend on 18-25 year olds.  But the imagination needs to be there to make the shift.

A key accompanying long-term learning recommendation is for a spread of ‘learning leave’ – time off for study.  This should become as much a part of standard employment conditions as paid holidays are now – and for quite similar reasons. The UK has a long hours culture, and work has intensified through new technological processes. We should spread it out more, and allow learning to weave in and out of the new texture.

Our guest writer is Tom Schuller, Director of the Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, sponsored by NIACE, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.  Learning Through Life is published today.

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3 Responses to “Britain needs a new approach to lifelong learning”

  1. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd New approach 2 lifelong learning needed, says the Director, Inquiry in2 the Future for Lifelong Learning http://bit.ly/dwUJU

  2. AMDH

    Labour £3billion ‘Demographic Dividend’ for LifelongLearning -Possibility, Promise or plain selfPromotion? http://tiny.cc/ngRcS @leftfootfwd

  3. Alastair Thomson

    The demographic argument for a re-balancing of education spending is compelling: In the next decade there will be 500,000 fewer people under 25, but 3 million more aged 50-75. Why spending so fron-loaded across the lifecourse?

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