The perils of confusing lifelong learning with lifelong education
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Lifelong learning is a socio-personal process and a personal fact. As such, it is conceptually distinct from an educational provision that constitutes an institutional fact. In building on this distinction, this article seeks to elaborate a central flaw in the precepts for, conceptualisation of and enactment of the report 'Learning through life', thereby proposing it as being ill informed, partial and of limited use. Moreover, it is potentially perilous to the project of lifelong learning as it could well lead to the misrepresentation, marginalisation and undermining of a broadly premised provision of support for adults' learning. The emphasis on educational provisions rather than individuals' learning and ignoring of the diversity of settings in which individuals' learn, stands as major flaws, seemingly arising from the authors' perspectives and stakeholder interests. Largely neglected throughout is the scholarship on adult learning and development across the life course. Instead, miscellaneous and often unhelpful sources inform the report. The overall recommendations reflect a view of human development that was abandoned decades ago as being unhelpful, and whose rejection is more now pertinent than ever. Moreover, it largely rehearses a tired educational discourse and unquestioningly privileges the value of taught courses, ignoring the importance and ubiquity of learning experiences outside of courses that are the most common source of learning across individual's lives. Within its discussion and the shaping of its recommendations, lifelong learning is presented as an institutional fact rather than a personal process. That is, erroneously, learning is claimed to be a product of what social institutions enact rather than being something done by people. In doing so, a misinformed and inaccurate account of lifelong learning emerges and a narrow conception of how that learning might best be promoted and supported is advanced. Yet, the great peril within this document is in promoting a form of learning support that lends itself more to management of educational provisions than concerns about individuals' learning. The peril here is that other circumstances and settings in which learning occurs stand to be ignored or further marginalised. In all, not only is this report an opportunity lost, it represents a significant threat to an important and viable field of human and societal development across the life course: lifelong learning.
International Journal of Lifelong Education
© 2010 Routledge. This is an electronic version of an article published in International Journal of Lifelong Education, Volume 29, Issue 4, 2010, Pages 401-413. International Journal of Lifelong Education is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com with the open URL of your article.
Education not elsewhere classified