Books. Speaking Truth to Power: Research and Policy on Lifelong Learning

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




by Frank Coffield, E. (2000), "Books. Speaking Truth to Power: Research and Policy on Lifelong Learning", Education + Training, Vol. 42 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Books. Speaking Truth to Power: Research and Policy on Lifelong Learning

Speaking Truth to Power: Research and Policy on Lifelong Learning

Edited by Frank CoffieldThe Policy Press1999ISBN: 1861341474£13.99

Keywords Learning, Continuing development, Career development

The pace of economic, industrial and technical change continues to accelerate. The Internet, virtually unknown by the population at large at the start of the 1990s, had become a powerful tool of communication and even commerce by the end of the decade. Technology is driving a connected global economy at a rate our grandparents could never have imagined.

In this new world, the traditional career is disappearing as individuals look, or are forced, to experience different types of work in different creative environments. Security no longer comes from being employed, it comes from being employable. Workers are having to develop a range of skills that can be translated across various jobs. This increases their mobility and allows them to move between jobs as suits them best. The constant upgrading of skills and pursuit of opportunities is a lifelong proposition, even inside a single corporation.

However, few employers seem to see the point in such retraining (after all, why increase the skills of a valued worker when that may make him/her more likely to leave?) and almost none of them are willing to pay for it. Governments will usually have the key role to play in encouraging lifelong learning.

The UK Government gives the appearance of recognising this. The key role of lifelong learning is repeatedly stressed by Government members from the Prime Minister down. European Union policy, too, seeks to facilitate constant adaptation of the workforce to new demands, to enable the least qualified workers to benefit from continuing vocational training, and to advance effective equality of opportunity for men and women regarding access to continuing vocational training. But taken together, the contributions to Speaking Truth to Power: Research and Policy on Lifelong Learning constitute a powerful critique of current UK policy on lifelong learning.

The report presents the findings of a major new survey which examined the skills of a representative sample of UK workers and found, for example, an "alarmingly high" mismatch between the demand for, and supply of, qualifications.

Other chapters deal with the fragmentation of provision for adult guidance, the financial and psychological costs of lifelong learning for learners with children, and the failure of the market principle in education to create a national culture of learning. The report also contains many practical recommendations.

The report deserves to be read by politicians, policymakers, employers, trade unionists and educationists keen to create a culture of lifelong learning in the UK.

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