Split in sector is stifling lifelong learning, warns Niace leader

May 11, 2001

The government is creating a divide between further and higher education that is stifling progress in lifelong learning, an adult education leader said this week.

The focus of ministers' post-16 agenda is polarising issues between the sectors, with further education policies concentrating on basic skills while higher education continues to be concerned with young entrants, according to Alan Tuckett, director of Niace, the national organisation for adult learning.

"The government has kept a fairly inflexible control over the boundary between further and higher education, yet I do not think that that is the way the system is developing," he said.

This inflexibility is hampering efforts to increase collaboration between institutions in the two sectors, Mr Tuckett said.

In the run-up to Adult Learners' Week, Mr Tuckett said he hoped more higher education institutions would think about how they cater for adults.

  • Adult literacy research that has influenced government thinking on basic skills has been condemned as "inadequate".

Progress in Adult Literacy , a report on the research conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research, and commissioned by the Basic Skills Agency, misrepresented findings and oversimplified information, according to Mary Hamilton, professor of adult learning and literacy at Lancaster University.

Conclusions in the report were based largely on test results "of dubious validity", Professor Hamilton says in a critique published this week by Niace.

The NFER declined to comment.

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