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    Proofing rural lifeling learning

    Jackson, Sue and Clarke, Richard (2003) Proofing rural lifeling learning. Project Report. Birkbeck College, University of London, London, UK.

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    The countryside covers 85% of England’s land surface and the people who live and work in it comprise one fifth of the population. Yet in lifelong learning discourse, (as so often elsewhere) the countryside rarely receives much specific attention as the focus for elaboration and critique of policy. This Occasional Paper builds on a recent ‘rural proofing’ study undertaken for the Countryside Agency, which reviewed the application of government lifelong learning policies in, and their implications for, rural areas. In particular it attempted to identify and examine existing evidence for differential impacts of lifelong learning policies for rural people and businesses compared to their urban counterparts. The Countryside Agency study shows how little attention has to date been paid specifically to rural aspects of lifelong learning policy. It emphasises well known and long standing problems of access to learning opportunity, to do with inadequate and localised provision within a dispersed population, which are exacerbated by poor transport, concealed poverty (and other dimensions of social exclusion) and (for vocational training) by the specific difficulties faced by small rural enterprises. Beyond this, however, it confirms how little information exists regarding rural needs and uptake, which might allow such problems to be addressed in policy terms. It argues that existing research activities, (for example those of the Centre for the Wider benefits of Learning) should accommodate the rural dimension. In particular, local plans of the 47 regional Learning and Skills Councils (LSC) currently in production should be monitored to see to what extent they take the rural dimension into account, and how. It asserts that Non Departmental Public Bodies outside DfES (including Defra funded agencies such as the Countryside Agency) also have a role to play, in incorporating lifelong learning into their own policies (in the case of the CA especially within protected landscapes which are the focus of a number of new initiatives related to sustainable rural governance). Alongside these conclusions, however, lie other considerations. Neither lifelong learning nor rural proofing are unproblematic categories. This paper examines some of the political and ideological assumptions and constructs which underpin the categories of ‘lifelong learning’ and ‘rural proofing’. It argues that rural proofing (a government commitment to subjecting all its policies to scrutiny for rural relevance or bias) needs to reflect on its own assumptions as well as recognise contested paradigms of lifelong learning (as an umbrella term for all post school ‘adult learning’). It argues that the distinction between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ needs to be mapped onto contested paradigms of lifelong learning, and, with them, seen in an historical context. Within New Labour, lifelong learning and rural governance are both subsets of a broader agenda that has to do with entrepreneurship and competitiveness; economic well-being and environmental quality; social inclusion, citizenship, civic participation and social engagement. It concludes that the new administrative and funding structures of lifelong learning may permit a closer strategic focus on perceived regional needs, particularly those to do with skills and employment. However they are unlikely to encourage a revival and re-focusing of non-vocational (and especially non-formal) learning opportunities. Moreover to the degree that the emphasis on widening participation and social inclusion may secure access to work for some, they do little in themselves to address structural problems of rural inequality and poverty. Current instrumental trends in lifelong learning are closely focused on perceived ‘human capital’ requirements but do not necessarily take into account the specific requirements either of rural enterprises or of the diversity of rural people and their needs. Any radical developments in rural areas will need to be part of a new rural settlement in which longstanding social and economic problems of rural areas are addressed.


    Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
    Additional Information: FCE Occasional Papers Series, no.3 - ISBN: 0907904963
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Lifelong learning, Rural education, Adult education, Rural proofing
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR)
    Depositing User: Richard Clarke
    Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2014 13:22
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:10


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