Whatever happened to lifelong learning? And does it matter?

by John Bynner

21 Mar 2017
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Full text posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 5, pp. 61-89.

Abstract: While adult education has a long history in Britain going back to the Workers Education Association of the 19th century, the term ‘lifelong learning’ does not extend much further back than the 1970s. The paper considers the accelerating technological changes that lay behind the idea of cradle to grave learning in a global context and the life-enhancing and economic returns to be expected. The longitudinal British birth cohort studies that have charted people’s changing lives since the Second World War display the benefits to be gained from learning. A policy shift is revealed towards dominance of the ‘economic’ over the ‘wider’ (social and well-being) learning goals and from analysis of basic skills data a trajectory of disadvantage and growing ‘learning divide’. What halted lifelong learning’s progress? Where does the programme go next?

Keywords: lifelong learning, wider benefits, basic skills, longitudinal, adult education, trajectory.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation Lecture, read 14 September 2016 (video recording)

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