Education, industry and Government have joined forces in a unique campaign designed to sell learning to the public. The Campaign for Learning, launched on Wednesday, promises to market learning like any other consumer product in a bid to recreate Britain as a learning society by 2000.
A MORI poll on attitudes to learning, commissioned by the campaign, shows that 95 per cent of people thought it never too late to learn. But the poll also showed that 63 per cent admitted they would probably not take part in any learning in the coming year.
The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is coordinating the five-year campaign with the TEC National Council, the Open University and the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education.
Speaking at the launch in the City of London, Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pledged the Government's support to the campaign, including a further Pounds 250,000 in initial funding.
Sir Christopher Ball, chairman of the campaign, said that some 130 companies have already pledged support and he hoped that the number involved would grow to 1,000 by the end of next year.
The Mori survey showed that only 17 per cent of all respondents thought learning too expensive. But more than a third of respondents in the poorest social classes D and E - semi and unskilled, casuals and those on benefits - perceived the cost of learning as a barrier.
Nearly a quarter of all adults had been put off learning by school and almost a third said that they had too little time.
More than two thirds said that they would prefer to learn from books while 19 per cent prefered CD ROM and computers. Seven per cent said they preferred the Internet as a learning tool.
Margaret Jack, director of the Campaign for the RSA, said: "The MORI findings show that virtually everybody wants to continue learning throughout their lives but very few people can be bothered to do anything about it. The challenge is to persuade people to take action and to begin to learn."