Adult Learning

Festival of Learning’s commitment to adult learning mirrored internationally

The widespread reach of adult learning extends to a global level, with countries making an effort to establish focused strategies, according to Alan Tuckett OBE. His attendance at the Festival of Learning last week, which celebrated its 25-year anniversary, was the perfect opportunity for us to get his thoughts on whether overall attitudes were changing towards adult learning…

“If you ask that question globally, without a doubt. I’m working with the World Economic Forum who have decided that they must have a lifelong learning policy. There are a lot of Asian countries developing learning cities and developing strategies to transform learning for their adults. If you look at the economic changes to the world, the pace of digitalisation and the way technologies are making jobs redundant – you need to carry on learning through life,” he said.

Hearing about the investment in adult learning overseas naturally raises questions about the UK’s position. Maggie Galliers, the Chair of the Learning and Work Institute Company Board, had some pragmatic advice on how the UK should evolve its commitment to further education.

“I think that the situation we’re in at the moment is with the squeeze on public expenditure, there’s less opportunity for subsidised adult learning that we know of, but that’s encouraging creativity about how we might offer adult learning in unusual ways and in unusual settings,” said Maggie. “It would be great if we could expand adult learning in all kinds of ways including through government subsidy and that’s what we’ll continue to try to do by attempting to get employers on board, communities, organisations and voluntary organisations.”

Tuckett, who founded Adult Learner’s Week, has had an illustrious career within education. He has spent 38 years running organisations in adult education, holding positions such as Past President for the International Council for Adult Education, CEO of NIACE and is currently Professor of Education at the University of Wolverhampton.

On the creation of Adult Learner’s Week, Tuckett said: “It was an idea and at the beginning my committee was very sceptical about whether it would work, but it just exploded and it happens all over the world now so it’s wonderful. It’s humbling.

“You know at the heart of it, if you celebrate existing learners, in all of their diversity, that will encourage other people to join in. It will also help decision makers recognise that there’s more to education than just getting people started. Learning has a role across the social space and throughout people’s lives.”

The 2016 Patron’s winner, Emily Hicks, who was presented her award by the Princess Royal is one example. Hicks went from caring for her mother who suffers from bi-polar at the age of 11, to achieving a degree in social care and going on to becoming a co-ordinator at York Carer’s Centre, all while struggling with dyslexia.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said: “What the range of winners over the years says to me is the power of learning in so many different ways. We have examples of how people have used their learning to improve health and wellbeing and you’ve got examples of winners learning in order to get a job or to change their career, and that’s really important with the pace of change in the modern world.”

Previous winners and representatives within the FE and education sector gathered at City Lit for the ceremony and were joined by patron for the organisation, HRH the Princess Royal, who spoke fondly about the impact of adult learning and its role in society.

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