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DfEE Logo The Learning Age
a renaissance for a new Britain
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Foreword by the Secretary of State

"Learning is the key to prosperity - for each of us as individuals, as well as for the nation as a whole. Investment in human capital will be the foundation of success in the knowledge-based global economy of the twenty-first century. This is why the Government has put learning at the heart of its ambition. Our first policy paper addressed school standards. This Green Paper sets out for consultation how learning throughout life will build human capital by encouraging the acquisition of knowledge and skills and emphasising creativity and imagination. The fostering of an enquiring mind and the love of learning are essential to our future success..."

"This Green Paper is the start of a consultation process which will help shape the Learning Age. I invite you to offer your views and to make your contribution to ensuring that the United Kingdom is working, and is working for everyone, in the first crucial decade of a new millennium."

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DAVID BLUNKETT
Secretary of State for Education and Employment


Contents

The Learning Age: Introduction
The Learning Age | Learning's potential | The purpose of this consultation paper | The scale of the challenge | Principles | Consultation process

Chapter 1: The Individual Learning Revolution
Putting learners first | Overcoming the obstacles | The University for Industry | Learning Direct | Technology and learning | Priorities for early action | On-line consultation

Chapter 2: Investing in Learning
Principles for public funding | Sharing investment with individuals | Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) | Support for students | Sharing investment with employers | Childcare | Priorities for early action | On-line consultation

Chapter 3: Learning at Work
Skills for the knowledge-based economy | The national framework | Supporting Learning Businesses | Helping small firms to learn | Investors in People | Better information | Developing skills | Support for skills | Priorities for early action | On-line consultation

Chapter 4: Realising the Learning Age
Opening up access | Supporting Young People | Further Education and the Kennedy Report | Learning at home and in the community | Higher Education and the Dearing Report | Opportunities for students with learning difficulties and disabilities | Making the most of libraries and the creative industries | Working Together | Priorities for early action | On-line consultation

Chapter 5: Ensuring Standards, Quality & Accountability
Raising standards | Further education | Quality in adult education | TECs and their providers | A Consistent Approach to Improving Quality | Higher education | Priorities for early action | On-line consultation

Chapter 6: Recognising Achievement
The value of qualifications | Coherence and quality | Qualifications for young people | Records of Achievement | Key skills | Qualifications for adult learners | Qualifications in higher education | Priorities for early action | On-line consultation

Chapter 7: Consultation: how to respond
Summary | On-line consultation | How to respond off-line

Appendix: Participation in Learning
Higher Education | Further Education | Adult Education | Training delivered by TECs | Employer-funded Training | The National Adult Learning Survey 1997

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England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Many of the issues covered in this White Paper are relevant across the UK. This paper covers specific proposals for England. The Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for education and training policy in these parts of the UK.

The Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales plan to issue their own documents on lifelong learning in these countries, including how the University for Industry will be taken forward. In Northern Ireland Ministers will undertake a consultative process on the issues raised.


Foreword by the Secretary of State

Learning is the key to prosperity - for each of us as individuals, as well as for the nation as a whole. Investment in human capital will be the foundation of success in the knowledge-based global economy of the twenty-first century. This is why the Government has put learning at the heart of its ambition. Our first policy paper addressed school standards. This Green Paper sets out for consultation how learning throughout life will build human capital by encouraging the acquisition of knowledge and skills and emphasising creativity and imagination. The fostering of an enquiring mind and the love of learning are essential to our future success.

To achieve stable and sustainable growth, we will need a well-educated, well-equipped and adaptable labour force. To cope with rapid change and the challenge of the information and communication age, we must ensure that people can return to learning throughout their lives. We cannot rely on a small elite, no matter how highly educated or highly paid. Instead, we need the creativity, enterprise and scholarship of all our people.

As well as securing our economic future, learning has a wider contribution. It helps make ours a civilised society, develops the spiritual side of our lives and promotes active citizenship. Learning enables people to play a full part in their community. It strengthens the family, the neighbourhood and consequently the nation. It helps us fulfil our potential and opens doors to a love of music, art and literature. That is why we value learning for its own sake as well as for the equality of opportunity it brings.

To realise our ambition, we must all develop and sustain a regard for learning at whatever age. For many people this will mean overcoming past experiences which have put them off learning. For others it will mean taking the opportunity, perhaps for the first time, to recognise their own talent, to discover new ways of learning and to see new opportunities opening up. What was previously available only to the few can, in the century ahead, be something which is enjoyed and taken advantage of by the many.

That is why this Green Paper encourages adults to enter and re-enter learning at every point in their lives, whatever their experience at school. There are many ways in which we can all take advantage of new opportunities:

  • as parents we can play our part in encouraging, supporting and raising the expectations of our children by learning alongside them;

  • as members of the workforce we can take on the challenge of learning in and out of work; and

  • as citizens we can balance the rights we can expect from the state, with the responsibilities of individuals for their own future, sharing the gains and the investment needed.

Two initiatives will exemplify our approach:

  • individual learning accounts which will enable men and women to take responsibility for their own learning with support from both Government and employers; and

  • the University for Industry which will offer access to a learning network to help people deepen their knowledge, update their skills and gain new ones.

We are fortunate in this country to have a great tradition of learning. We have inherited the legacy of the great self-help movements of the Victorian industrial communities. Men and women, frequently living in desperate poverty, were determined to improve themselves and their families. They did so through the creation of libraries, study at workers' institutes, through the pioneering efforts of the early trade unions, at evening classes, through public lectures and by correspondence courses. Learning enriched their lives and they, in turn, enriched the whole of society.

The Learning Age will be built on a renewed commitment to self-improvement and on a recognition of the enormous contribution learning makes to our society. Learning helps shape the values which we pass on to each succeeding generation. Learning supports active citizenship and democracy, giving men and women the capacity to provide leadership in their communities. As President John F Kennedy once put it: "Liberty without learning is always in peril and learning without liberty is always in vain".

This Green Paper is the start of a consultation process which will help shape the Learning Age. I invite you to offer your views and to make your contribution to ensuring that the United Kingdom is working, and is working for everyone, in the first crucial decade of a new millennium.

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DAVID BLUNKETT
Secretary of State for Education and Employment

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Links on this page was last updated on the 1st March 1998.

This document was added to the Education-line database 07 April 1998