Creating a Learning Society? Learning Careers and Their Relevance for Policies of Lifelong Learning

Creating a Learning Society? Learning Careers and Their Relevance for Policies of Lifelong Learning

Creating a Learning Society? Learning Careers and Their Relevance for Policies of Lifelong Learning

Creating a Learning Society? Learning Careers and Their Relevance for Policies of Lifelong Learning


This book presents a highly innovative study of participation in lifelong learning and the problems which need to be overcome if lifelong learning policies are to be successful. It: provides a systematic analysis, based on innovative empirical research, of the social and economic realities which actually determine patterns of participation in lifelong learning;shows what the factors are that shape people's participation, or their decision not to participate; offers new insights into the processes of lifelong learning, which have important implications for the development of more effective policies.Creating a learning society? is a stimulating read for lifelong learning practitioners, as well as policy makers and researchers in this field.


Lifelong learning is a topic that is most often addressed by both policy makers and academics using rhetoric and normative critique, rather than empirical evidence and systematic analysis. in this book, we set out to redress the balance by presenting – hopefully in an accessible form – the results of a large-scale study of patterns of lifelong participation in learning, the social and economic determinants of these patterns, and their impacts on social exclusion. This evidence provides us with the basis to evaluate alternative policy strategies for lifelong learning at national, regional and local levels. Rooting policy development in rigorous research seems to us essential if we are to achieve a truly learning society.

Accordingly, this book is based on a wide variety of empirical evidence, mostly stemming from a project entitled Patterns of participation in adult education and training, which was completed between 1996-99 as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC’s) ‘Learning Society’ programme. This project was based on our previous theoretical and empirical work, in the areas of work-based learning and vocational education and training, transitions from school to work, and the creation of learner identities. the data sources used in the study include: a large-scale household survey of the learning experiences of around 2,500 people aged 16-65; in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of 110 of these respondents; analysis of historical archives; interviews with education and training providers; and analysis of a variety of secondary statistical sources.

The results of this study are supplemented by the findings of further work we have done in separate projects on learning regions, the policy of setting National Targets for Lifelong Learning and the use of information and communications technology to extend participation in adult learning, by means of initiatives such as the University for Industry (UfI).

These various projects have generated a significant number of academic publications, written primarily to present our findings, to develop social scientific theory, or to explain our methodological strategies. However, this book is new in that it brings together and makes explicit for the first time the policy implications of our research; and in doing so, uses a large quantity of previously unpublished material. Shorn of complex methodological considerations, the book is therefore aimed at those involved in shaping and working with policies for lifelong learning. There is a growing body of people who are professionally concerned with the development of lifelong learning: in Local Education Authorities (LEAs); the Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) and their equivalents in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; the further education sector; in adult and continuing education; the voluntary sector; in private-sector training providers; the training divisions of companies; and in trades unions. We hope that what we have to say will be of interest to these groups, as well as to those in the Westminster and devolved governments . . .

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