Social Capital and Lifelong Learning

Social Capital and Lifelong Learning

Social Capital and Lifelong Learning

Social Capital and Lifelong Learning

Synopsis

This book confirms the significance of social capital as an analytical tool, while challenging the basis on which current policy is being developed. It offers a wealth of evidence on a topic that has become central to contemporary government; provides a detailed empirical investigation of the relationship between social capital, knowledge creation and lifelong learning; relates the findings to wider policy debates; questions the dominant theoretical models of social capital; and confronts the assumption of many policy makers that the obvious solution to social problems is to 'invest in social capital'.The book is aimed at researchers in education, policy studies and urban studies, as well as those concerned with an understanding of contemporary policy concerns. It provides readers with a detailed analysis of relevant evidence, as well as a trenchant critique of current conceptual and policy preoccupations.

Excerpt

During the 1990s, a widespread debate opened over the idea and goal of a ‘learning society’. This debate was bound up with ideas for modernising and reforming education and training systems, so that they not only ensured that young people were able to enter adult life with a robust platform of skills and knowledge, but also that adults themselves were able to continue their learning throughout their lifespan. At its narrowest, this simply involved the adjustment of existing systems and institutions so that they could better promote achievement and participation, particularly among the new cadres of highly skilled knowledge workers. A learning society is the precondition, it is said, of a high performance knowledge economy. Other, more generous visions of the learning society have emphasised the value of learning both in its own right and as a gateway to participation and full citizenship: a civilised society, in this view, is one that provides opportunities for learning for all, regardless of their age or life stage, as a right.

Even if we take a comparatively narrow definition of the learning society, the implications are radical. Even if limited to the formal arrangements by which any community ensures that its members gain the skills and knowledge required in and for a rapidly changing economy, this perspective has already generated considerable impetus for reform of education and training systems. Staid policy makers meeting in sober international governmental agencies like the European Union or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are concluding that the new economy demands a dramatically different education and training system from the one that exists today. In a 1994 White Paper on economic competitiveness and growth, the European Commission went so far as to call for future educational reform initiatives to be based “on the concept of developing, generalising and systematising lifelong learning and continuing training” (CEC, 1994, p 136). This is a radical ambition indeed, which has led the Commission and many economically advanced nations to turn their attention to lifewide as well as lifelong learning: that is, to the many different areas of life in which people continue to acquire and create new skills and knowledge throughout their lifespan. In practical terms, this has led to an interest in such areas as workplace learning, family learning and community learning, and in how they can be related to – or, in a telling word, ‘captured’ for – more formal systems for recognising knowledge and competences.

Recognition of the complexity and diffusion of lifelong and lifewide . . .

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