The Benefits of Learning: The Impact of Education on Health, Family Life, and Social Capital

The Benefits of Learning: The Impact of Education on Health, Family Life, and Social Capital

The Benefits of Learning: The Impact of Education on Health, Family Life, and Social Capital

The Benefits of Learning: The Impact of Education on Health, Family Life, and Social Capital

Synopsis

How do education and learning really impact on people's lives? The Benefits of Learning is a detailed, systematic and vivid account of the impact of formal and informal education on people's lives. Based on extended interviews with adults of all ages, it shows how learning affects their health, family lives and participation in civic life, revealing the downsides of education as well as the benefits. At a time when education is in danger of being narrowly regarded as an instrument of economic growth, this study covers: * The interaction between learning and people's physical and psychological well-being * The way learning impacts on family life and communication between generations * The effect on people's ability and motivation to take part in civic and community life. Full of detail from adults' own accounts of their lives, the book reveals how learning enables people to sustain themselves and their communities in the face of daily stresses and strains, as well as sometimes transforming their lives. The book opens up new avenues for debate. It will be a valuable resource for education researchers and of particular interest to education policy makers, adult education practitioners, health educators and postgraduate students in education.

Excerpt

This book is about how learning makes a difference to people's lives, as individuals and as members of their community. It is more than likely that anyone picking up the book - you, the reader - will be broadly predisposed to believe that learning does indeed bring benefits; we do not on the whole devote time to reading about things in which we have no belief. Whether as students (and former students), teachers or some other form of educational professional, or simply as members of a society where learning is increasingly emphasised as the sine qua non of personal or collective achievement, most people have a strong sense that without education their world would be a poorer place, economically but also intellectually, culturally, socially and even morally. Moreover, this perception derives not from abstract knowledge or political rhetoric but for the most part from direct experience. Most of us consciously owe our social and occupational position to some degree of educational achievement; we translate that knowledge into concern for the success of family and friends, and of the wider society; and we see the sad effects on others of educational failure. Stock learning-lauding phrases abound, from Aristotle ('Public education is needed in all areas of public interest', Politics, Book 8) to the current Prime Minister ('Education is the best economic policy we have').

But the ways in which learning actually affects our lives, individually and collectively, remain relatively unexplored in systematic empirical fashion. That people get better jobs because they have qualifications is obvious, and the relationship between education, income and occupation is well established at the individual level (Carnoy 2000; Blöndal et al. 2002). Better educated populations tend to prosper (OECD 1998). Even on this economic front, however, the mechanisms which translate learning into benefit are still quite poorly understood, especially at the level of the organisation or, still more, the state. For all the political rhetoric, the behaviour of many organisations shows that they do not believe that investing in people's human capital is essential to their performance (Keep et al. 2003).

Of course, education is not only about economic performance. If we turn to

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