Sunday, April 02, 2006

Adult education and New Labour

In an article on the Spiked website, Neil Davenport looks at the depressing philosophy behind the government's insistence that the further education sector should concentrate on the needs of industry:
There is more going on here than crude bean counting - the UK economy can easily afford to provide evening classes for art and Spanish and beyond. What New Labour seems to find uncomfortable is autonomous individuals learning for learning's sake, rather than as a means to an end. The notion of autonomous individuals seeking self-improvement doesn't fit with today's levelling-down mentality. New Labour might use workerist language to justify its reforms, but historically it was Workers' Educational Associations and Trades Unions that pioneered adult learning centres. They were designed, not for skills retraining, but to provide an opportunity to learn something away from the narrow confines of work.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

Don't get me started on the current state of Adult Education...

I'm on the committee of a local community association who have to share premises with the local adult education service.
A bit of history is that we originally ran the adult education at the venue, but gave it over to the local authority in the 60s or 70s...

Aside from that, adult education is now for '16-18 year olds' (I thought that's what 6th Form Colleges were for...) and is otherwise oriented around Computers (how to shop online being one course) and maths and english courses.

/Everything/ now has to have a 'qualification' attached, there's no such thing as learning for its own sake.
The valuable social service classes offer are ignored as they can't be measured.

Alternative provision is squeezed out. A case in point being the Life Art Club at the community association which started from the members of an abandoned class setting up their own club, paying the tutor (who was forced to retire) themselves (and saving money in the process). They have now been forced out by the adult education authority.