‘Unleashing the potential’ of individuals entails continuing education

Yet the ‘Guardian’ reports that 3.8 million fewer people are in adult education compared to the beginning of the decade.

This is of course, the inevitable result of austerity, though how spending less on education can ever represent good value for anyone, let alone a currency issuing government is quite beyond me. How much more appealing Labour’s idea of a ‘National Education Service’ seems. Allegedly the Tories have pledged a £3bn national skills fund to remedy their previous mistakes. Though let us hope the pledge is more substatial than that for 50,000 ‘more’ nurses.

Worryingly – although unsurprisingly when one considers the personal costs involved:

Adults from lower-income households are half as likely to take part in learning than those in higher-income groups, while those who left school at 16 are half as likely to enter adult learning than those who stayed in education until at least 21.

There is also the old fear about Britain’s poor labour productivity having something to do with an uneducated workforce, though, with plentiful evidence of people with degrees largely unable to find jobs that (ahem) pay them sufficiently to repay their student loans I am not entirely convinced that this is the case. When as adults there is usually an additional commitment to a family, adult education needs to be free, prevalent and pervasive, and regular, and short, specific upskilling is likely to do most for productivity. That seems to be very sadly lacking in Britain’s world of work. (And, with a better but still imperfect system, even Germany has struggled to maintain productivity improvements.) Poor productivity and indeed its measurement have much more to do with lack of investment in machinery (and why would you bother when labour is cheap and can be turned up or down from zero hours at will). Also the labour productivity measurement itself fails to take account of the fact that the improvement in that (always imperfect) yardstick, Gross Domestic Product, seems to be disproportionately captured by the better off.

If education is about realising the potential of everyone then governments need to realise that realising an individual’s potential is not a one-off event but it is most likley to be realised on a continual and ongoing basis.

The government talks about to “progress into work”. Whereas productivity is actually about progress in work.


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