Thursday, 19 June 2014

22 years of celebrating lifelong learning

This week is the 22nd Adult Learner’s Week (ALW), part of this years festival of learning which has inspired thousands of events across the country since the beginning of May, to encourage and celebrate lifelong learning in all its forms.

A celebration and showcase of the power of learning, ALW brings together a wide variety of organisations such as unions, employers colleges and universities in an effort to inspire and engage adults across the UK into learning.  It is also an opportunity to recognise the remarkable achievements of adult learners across the country, whose hard work and dedication makes it possible for them to transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

ALW is coordinated by NIACE, the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education, whose new strap-line is ‘The National Voice for Lifelong Learning’. NIACE are tireless in their mission to promote lifelong learning and to influence policy and practice to try and ensure more opportunities for adults to engage in learning.

I was pleased to be invited this week to to the NIACE Parliamentary reception, which incorporated the launch of the NIACE manifesto for the General Election in 2015, and followed on from the ALW national awards ceremony.

One of the guest speakers at the event was Matthew Hancock MP, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise who is himself a big fan of ALW. He reinforced the points made within the NIACE manifesto and confirmed that he was ‘committed to the extension of the right for everyone to have a basic education especially in maths and English’. This reminded me of why the name the National Extension College was chosen more than 50 years ago, because we were, and still are today, committed to the extension of the right to education for everyone.

The manifesto set out by NIACE urges all of the political parties to ‘forge a new skills strategy for all which reflects the challenges we face and makes the most of opportunities we have as people live longer’. It aims to persuade political leaders that Lifelong Learning is fundamental to building a fair and sustainable society and economy, and points out that inequalities in participation in learning closely follows inequalities in income and wealth. This is also evidenced within the results of NIACE’s Adult Participation in Learning survey.

The value of lifelong learning was evident throughout the reception with award winners having the opportunity to share their inspirational learning journeys. The day also reminded us how people learn for many different reasons and in many different ways. One of the award winners who stood out for me, was Melanie who received the European Social Fund National Individual Learner of the Year Award.

Melanie was struggling with addiction and homelessness and turned to a life of crime. During a two year prison sentence, she turned her life around by engaging in learning. She started with basic literacy and numeracy courses before moving on to other courses to improve her employability skills. This led her to become a prison orderly and support other women with their education. Melanie has since been released, and is working in a part-time role putting her newly acquired skills into practice.

Stories like Melanie’s really show what the manifesto can deliver for real people and why we are all so committed to Lifelong Learning.

Ros Morpeth, CEO The National Extension College.

To learn more about NEC, visit our website to read about our work and browse our full range of flexible distance learning courses. You can keep up to date with all our latest news and events by subscribing to our email newsletter or following our blog, and we can also be found on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter. Take part in NEC’s own celebration of Lifelong Learning with the Learning Challenge 2014, a series of free short courses available to download throughout the year. Follow the challenge on Twitter #LearningChallenge2014

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