3. Changing Cultures and Cultural Change
3.1 The United Kingdom is currently going through a period of profound, widespread social change. This has been aptly defined as the emergence of 'risk society'.(5) Its defining characteristics powerfully set the context of both constraint and opportunity within which the development of lifelong learning must occur. They are:
3.2 Systematic lifelong learning can significantly help develop people's skills, orientations and confidence to navigate the many risks, uncertainties and ambiguities of contemporary life. It can constitutes a key resource in enabling people to participate in the shaping society and to take advantage of social change, rather than being its possible victims. Unfortunately, many of those who could most benefit from lifelong learning in dealing with social change are currently excluded from or unaware of its pleasures and achievements, often lacking the self-confidence or opportunity to get involved.
3.3 A main task for policy-makers and providers of lifelong learning is to find ways to reach out to such people, enhancing their abilities to challenge the divisive and excluding tendencies of the contemporary world. At the same time, policy makers and providers need to devise strategies and policies which go with the grain of its positive and popular features so that people can make imaginative use of them. This includes learning from and working closely with those organisations and individuals who already know how to achieve success - through imaginative outreach, the engaging use of new information and communication technologies, and through creativity in the fields of popular culture, music, sport, communications and entertainment.
5 See, for example, Ulrich Beck, 1992, Risk Society: towards a new modernity and Anthony Giddens, 1997, 'Risk Society: the context of British politics', in J.Franklin (ed.), 1997, The Politics of Risk Society.
3.4 At the heart of our advice and underpinning all of our recommendations is a conviction that successful implementation of the government's strategy for lifelong learning will depend upon promoting widespread and systematic changes of culture in our society, creating opportunities for lifelong learning for all as we argued in our first report.(6) This is essential if the demand for learning throughout life is to be greatly increased, participation in learning is to be substantially widened and forms of provision are to be systematically diversified. We believe that this process of change will be greatly aided by the design and implementation of an imaginative, major national campaign to promote lifelong learning, in all of its aspects. This is fully in line with the thrust of The Learning Age, and builds on the advice we offered in our first report.
3.5 The idea of 'culture' is notoriously slippery and difficult to pin down.(7) Our own use of the concept concerns that bundle of signs, symbols, beliefs, traditions, myths, ways of thinking, speaking and doing which characterise the ways of life or behaviour of a given group of people. Cultures typically manifest themselves in the established routines and practices of people and what is taken for granted as 'normal' behaviour amongst them. Although cultures are rarely wholly fixed and unchanging, never the less it is characteristic of them, even as they evolve, to be deeply rooted in custom and constantly reinforced by habit and convention. Cultures are usually especially resistant to attempts to change them from outside or to impose unwanted modifications upon them.
3.6 In our country today, far too many people are still locked in a culture which regards lifelong learning as either unnecessary, unappealing, uninteresting or unavailable. Once schooling or immediate post-school education is over, they want nothing more of learning than it should largely leave them alone. They may not have enjoyed school at all, and had their-self esteem damaged by the experience. They may have felt, or been made to feel, that learning was not for them. Or they may simply think that learning is something that you get over and done with in the earlier stages of life, even if that includes post-school learning in further or higher education, before settling down to more 'adult' concerns and preoccupations.
3.7 It follows that proposals to change this culture will require action on many fronts, over an extended period, winning people to new ways of working, new priorities and a new sense of what is seen as normal and largely unremarkable. We want to see lifelong learning becoming part of everyday life, in all sorts of contexts, in a variety of circumstances and for everybody at all stages in their lives. Where learning is concerned, this means shifting from those situations where it is mostly a minority or special kind of activity to ones in which, increasingly and happily, everyone integrates elements of learning into their lives. It means recognising and cherishing those processes devoted to the generation and renewal of all forms of 'intellectual capital', and devising appropriate mechanisms to measure and evaluate it.(8)
3.8 At first sight, aiming at cultural change may appear to be far removed from the practicality and focus on implementation now necessary to achieve The Learning Age. But, on the contrary, focusing on cultural change carries the most profoundly practical implications, as those organisations which have successfully pioneered such developments can readily testify. It can only be achieved, step by step, through changes in our current practices and approach. Without such changes in culture, we believe that many well-intentioned, and often well-resourced, initiatives risk failure and likely disappointment.
6 This section draws on working paper
7 "Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language", Raymond Williams, 1976, Keywords p.76.
8 Leading edge practitioners and theorists of contemporary management and accounting have increasingly emphasised the growing significance of intellectual capital, not only for business success but also in assessing the true market value of corporations. For an excellent example, see the account of the insurance company Skandia's approach in Leif Edvinsson & Michael S. Malone, Intellectual Capital: the proven way to establish your company's real value.
A campaign to create Learning Cultures
3.9 It is also important to recognise that, just as cultural change will need to proceed on many different fronts, so too a variety of different learning cultures will need to be created. There is no 'one best way' or universally applicable type of learning culture, irrespective of people's circumstances or the organisational or institutional settings they find themselves in. Learning cultures will work effectively when they properly reflect the circumstances and needs of the people involved and their various organisations and institutions, and suit their own practical priorities and desires.
3.10 The public interest manifested in The Learning Age and the wide acclaim for its vision have been most encouraging. As part of government's response to the numerous submissions made in relation to the green paper, we believe that mounting a major campaign to promote lifelong learning in this country is now essential and would be most timely. The aim should be systematically to move lifelong learningup the national agenda, in terms of general awareness, understanding and action. To this end, we believe that government should strengthen this process by producing its own brief and widely accessible guide to what it is meant by the notion of 'creating learning cultures' and promote it, across a wide range of government departments and at all levels of national life.
3.11 Examples of good practice in the development of learning cultures should be drawn from a wide range of business, community, educational and family settings, showing how learning cultures have contributed to practical success in a whole variety of endeavours. Broad and popular support for the development of effective learning cultures should systematically be built up, through a sustained and multi-faceted campaign. We have in mind a determined and, imaginative initiative to parallel those mounted in respect of educational standards and schools improvement or healthy living, including a possible eventual government 'summit' of principal stakeholders.
3.12 The choice of language and the effective communication of engaging ideas are both crucial. For many people, the very phrase 'lifelong learning' itself is still puzzling or, at best, rather vague. As yet, the expression has not fired the imagination of the population at large, especially those not yet engaged in learning beyond school - at work, in the community, in their homes and families and in their leisure and recreational lives. To some people, the notion of 'lifelong' learning sounds more like a penal sentence or endurance test than an invitation to pleasure, achievement and progress. In our working papers, we offer one contribution to developing a suitable and more inspiring definition of lifelong learning.(9)
9 Finished work could build on the definition advanced by Jacques Delors, on behalf of UNESCO, which is based upon four 'pillars': learning to live together, learning to know, learning to do and learning to be. Jacques Delors et al., 1996, Learning: the Treasure Within, Report to UNESCO of the international commission on education for the twenty-first century.
Building the Campaign
3.13 A campaign of the kind we imagine cannot and should not be all 'top down', reliant largely on efforts from the government or national media. Not only would that be extremely expensive, it might also fail to connect precisely with those individuals and groups who should be the primary targets in a project aimed chiefly at widening and deepening participation in lifelong learning. There remains much scope for crafting a positive role for lifelong learning in many areas of policy in this country. So far, this is still all rather underdeveloped, sometimes even in the field of education itself. Similar arguments can be advanced in the so far unrealised development of genuinely learning organisations at work, in the voluntary sector and in the community where increased coherence of approach would deliver enormous advantages.
3.14 We believe that government's principal responsibility lies in giving strategic leadership, orchestrating the campaign, setting a clear framework of objectives and priorities, securing support from other potential major and influential players (including the media and industry) and mobilising widespread energy behind the campaign at several levels, especially locally. Cultural change needs leadership: from Government, at national level; from heads of educational institutions; from employers and trade unions, in companies; and from local strategic partnerships community activists and volunteers.
3.15 In all of this, clear and positive roles should be defined for national representative and campaigning bodies, such as the Campaign for Learning and NIACE, which have already led the way in widening the appeal and understanding of lifelong learning to many individuals and groups from under-represented sections of society. Roles and responsibilities in the broad-based campaign should also be found for National Training Organisations, the bodies such as Basic Skills Agency, TEC National Council, NACETT, Confederation of British Industry, Trades Union Congress, British Chamber of Commerce, Workers Education Association, Association of Colleges, Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, Local Government Association and all major national voluntary organisations and other charitable bodies. At local level the key responsibility should be given to the new strategic Lifelong Learning Partnerships. In other words, what we recommend is closer to something like the beginning of a 'movement', rather than a purely conventional marketing or publicity campaign.
3.16 There is already a large number of policy initiatives and arenas of intervention which either include a specific lifelong learning dimension or in which there is much scope to fashion a contribution from lifelong learning. Recognising this potential and drawing the various strands together to ensure effectiveness, focus and coherence constitutes a major task. This is especially important at government level, both nationally and locally. Recent good examples of this are designing a role for lifelong learning in the promotion of health and clarifying the contribution of learning to the work of the policy action teams set up as part of the New Deal for Communities, following the Social Exclusion Unit's study of poor neighbourhoods.(10) Securing coherence will be a key task for local strategic partnerships and it also lies at the very heart of the government's vision of a 'knowledge driven economy'.
3.17 As the influential OECD report on lifelong learning makes clear, the development of a coherent strategy requires that three key 'framework conditions' be met:
10 Bringing Britain Together, Social Exclusion Unit, 1998.
11 Lifelong Learning for All, OECD, 1996, p.96.
3.18 Although the process of creating a rich diversity of cultures of learning throughout our society has already begun, and there are encouraging signs in some quarters (12), in many respects there is so far only piecemeal and uneven progress. While this is understandable at the beginning of such a shift in cultures, it is not yet evident that there is full acceptance even at the heart of government of the value of including lifelong learning across a range of initiatives. Emphasis now needs to be given to each of the following potentially major influences upon the development of learning cultures, in every dimension of contemporary life. They should underpin policy making across the board and drive its implementation:
3.19 The kind of fundamental shift in attitudes and behaviour we are seeking to achieve will require cultural changes at many levels, and this should be reflected in the design and focus of the campaign we advocate. First, the motivation and commitment of individuals to learn will need to be increased. Their involvement in lifelong learning should both come to reflect their interests and priorities and engage them in shaping and supporting their own learning throughout their lives.
3.20 This radical shift in orientations and values will take time. For the young, it should begin in school, or even earlier.(13) The school curriculum itself, and its methods of delivery, should be so designed as to stimulate a love of learning, develop children's skills of learning to learn and be aimed at securing a commitment to learning throughout life from everyone. For adults, as we argue later, the pleasures and uses of learning should be widely stimulated and imaginatively reinforced in their everyday lives and in the many environments in which they move - at home, in work, in their leisure pursuits and in the community.(14)
3.21 All of those institutions which provide learning - schools, colleges, universities and private bodies - will need to review and change their cultures and current ways of working. Structures, procedures, language, curricula, learning environments, teaching methods and systems of support for learners will all need modifying. These cultural shifts should be accomplished through critical self-assessment and driven by funding mechanisms and inspection. Changes in culture should be reflected in institutions' declared objectives and targets and be subject to monitoring, review and report.
3.22 Employers need to understand the signal importance of investing in their employees' learning as a major component of staff's commitment to work. Learning cultures at work can underpin adaptability, creativity, flexibility and responsiveness. They can contribute to competitiveness, profitability and business success generally. Mutual commitment to workplace learning should increasingly figure as an element in the compact between employer and employee which breathes life into the legal formality of employment contracts.(15) Trade unions should increasingly both bargain for members' learning at and through work and provide it themselves, as part of the package of membership services and benefits they offer.
3.23 There should be further exploration of the range of possible incentives and rewards open to those companies which support learning at, for or through work, including fiscal changes, grant support and the creation of new awards. In advocating or designing learning opportunities and programmes for the business community, careful attention should always be given to the range of needs and diverse rhythms of different sectors and companies, with their varying sizes, market conditions and staff composition. Provision should be driven not by the needs and requirements of providers alone, but through genuine partnership with businesses and their staff and in response to their needs and priorities.
3.24 Public bodies of all kinds - local government, health authorities, funding councils, TECs and the new regional bodies - should all examine how best to stimulate and support lifelong learning by redirecting and re-balancing their resources and influence. They should promote lifelong learning within their organisations and stimulate it amongst those other bodies for which they have some responsibility or with which they are linked. They should share their plans and operations with key partners, give publicity to their lifelong learning initiatives and make their activities transparent and subject to public scrutiny. Government, and Ministers themselves, should lead by example. They should set out the broad strategy, requiring those other bodies over which they exercise some influence to demonstrate how they are striving to change their cultures.
12 See, for example, the green paper on health, Our Healthier Nation, Cm 3852, February 1998.
13 "School should impart the desire for, and pleasure in, learning, the ability to learn how to learn, and intellectual curiosity. One might even imagine a society in which each individual would be in turn both teacher and learner." Jacques Delors, op. cit.
14 The TEC National Council suggests that the question is not so much "how to create positive attitudes to learning?" as "why aren't the attitudes of individuals and employers more evident in behaviour and hope we can change this?". TEC National Council, A Lifetime of Learning, a Lifetime of Work: Developing a Learning Society, May 1997.
15 See the TEC National Council advocacy of developing employers as 'learners organisations' as a key aspect of cultural and attitudinal change at work. Ibid., p.28.
Ownership and Inclusion
3.25 If policy is to contribute to effective cultural change and promote regeneration and social inclusion, in whatever sphere, then ownership of each of these developments needs to be shared, especially by those people and communities intended to be the primary beneficiaries of such initiatives. Exactly the same point can be made about learning, especially amongst adults. They need to be won to the habits and normality of lifelong learning through seeing its connection to their own lives and priorities, taking ownership of their own learning and its development through life.
3.26 Those people most closely involved with community initiatives will not always recognise the need for systematic learning. Nor, even if they do, will they necessarily be best placed to access or deliver learning of the quality required, at least not on their own. They need effective links with high quality professional provision. In turn, professionals should not seek to impose their own conceptions of learning needs on communities. Successful learning should relate closely to people's own developing sense of their needs, chime well with the rhythms and exigencies of their own circumstances, and be evidently fit for purpose and of a guaranteed high standard.
3.27 This stimulation of shared ownership and responsibility is especially important if regeneration, social inclusion and lifelong learning are to become self-sustaining and locally embedded. This central aim should increasingly inform the design of funding policies and regimes. All too often, funding initiatives have been short-lived, with too little support and time being given over to securing the continuing benefits of such interventions. Embedding change successfully and securing sustainabilty should also shape organisational arrangements for the delivery of learning, the setting of local targets, the mechanisms for evaluation of provision and the assessment of progress against agreed standards and outcomes.
KR2 Government should instigate a major, multi-faceted campaign to promote lifelong learning and the development of learning cultures. It should be jointly led with the government' s key partners, be based on published examples of the successful creation of learning cultures, and be designed to:
SR1 In support of government's New Deal for Communities action programme, we recommend that government should identify a pathfinder agency in one of the 17 priority areas chosen, to lead a programme of local regeneration with lifelong learning at its heart .
SR2 Government should introduce specific initiatives to promote learning communities in large cities, towns and rural settings. This could be funded under the Single Regeneration Budget.
SR3 Consideration should be given by government to the idea of bringing all of its various learning initiatives together under the broad umbrella of a single, clearly articulated 'Millennium Learning Programme'.