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Compulsion and Coercion Two Major Forces in Lifelong Learning Says Professor John Field

Professor John Field
Originally Published 8 November 1999
The popular assumption that most participants in "Lifelong Learning" do so voluntarily will be challenged by Professor John Field, Professor of Lifelong Learning at the University of Warwick, in a speech to the National Organisation for Adult Learning in Coventry on Wednesday 10th November 1999.

Professor Field will say:

"Recent years have seen a quiet explosion in compulsory education and training for adults. Even leaving aside programmes for the unemployed such as New Deal, where the coercion is obvious and is hardly new - a great deal of professional development and skills updating is still carried out not because anyone wants to learn or is ready to learn, but because they are required to learn".

Professor Field believes that three of the main forces driving this compulsory life long learning activity are "Contract compliance, regulatory frameworks and statutory requirements" Another factor is the changing expectations from customers and citizens more generally. Professor Field says that:

"..for a range of problems, from racism in the police to air safety, the answer is to provide training, whether its subjects want it or not".

Professor Field will point out that the scale of compulsory adult education is impressive. In a recent survey of 20,667 households across the West Midlands, 36 per cent of the workforce had undertaken some job-related education and training. Of these, the largest subject of training was in relation to statutory regulation: for example over a quarter said their training was in health and safety/environment health training. Most people said they had done the training because their employer required it, the survey's authors concluded that "employer compulsion is clearly the main reason for training in the region".

Professor Field will conclude by asking whether learning under such conditions really represents a sound investment, whether for individuals, their employers, or society as a whole.

For further details please contact:

John Field, Professor of Lifelong Learning
University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL
Tel: 024 76 523835 Fax: 024 76 524223