Friday, 15 March 2013

Can Lifelong Learning Reshape Life Chances?

an article by Karen Evans and Ingrid Schoon (Institute of Education, University of London) and Martin Weale (National Institute of Economic and Social Research) published in British Journal of Educational Studies Volume 61 Issue 1 (2013)


Despite the expansion of post-school education and incentives to participate in lifelong learning, institutions and labour markets continue to interlock in shaping life chances according to starting social position, family and private resources.

The dominant view that the economic and social returns to public investment in adult learning are too low to warrant large-scale public funding has been challenged by recent LLAKES research that shows significant returns to participants in lifelong learning with improvements in both their employability and employment prospects.

It is argued that, under conditions of growing social polarisation and economic uncertainty, lifelong learning can have a significant protective effect by keeping adults close to a changing labour market. In this paper we review research from different disciplinary and epistemological traditions, providing evidence of the beneficial effects of lifelong learning, especially when taking into account the dynamics of the life course.

Transitions and turning-points in youth and in adult life are markers of diversification of the life course; how far these diversifications amount to ‘de-standardisation’ of the life course is debated. They involve biographical negotiation, in which any decision is consequential upon previous decisions and involves the exercise of contextualised preferences as well as the calculations of ‘rational choice’.

Gaining a better understanding of how changing demands are negotiated at different life stages offers a new perspective, moving from narrow versions of rational choice theory towards models of biographical negotiation as promising avenues for effective policy-making.

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