In his first speech as Business Secretary Vince Cable spoke of how adult education had saved his mother’s mind after she recovered from a mental breakdown. Upholding the value of education for its own sake, Cable indicated that his department would place ‘increased emphasis’ on lifelong learning as further education colleges across England face cuts of £200 million to their adult learning budgets. The cuts were recently confirmed by the Chancellor as ‘efficiency savings’ (BBC News, 3 June 2010).
Courses at risk
According to an earlier report, ‘courses at risk include plumbing, electrical installation, catering, care and A-levels and GCSEs for adults.’ (BBC News, 2 February 2010). The University and College Union warned many of the courses likely to be affected are skills for life programmes which are aimed at people with few or no qualifications in literacy and maths.
Nobody who believes in the value of education wants to hear of courses being cut and opportunities for learning thereby reduced. We all want to see colleges making the best possible use of diminishing budgets, and hope that they will continue to provide learning lifelines for all ages. (In Oxford, for example, the college of further education opened its doors to schoolchildren to learn pottery on a Saturday morning, rather than let its facilities go unused over the weekend. This nicely balances the way that schools open their doors to adult learners in the evenings.)
As some courses will inevitably be cut and less opportunities for adult learning remain available in colleges, where else can people turn to learn the skills they need, or study for GCSEs, IGCSEs and A Levels they need to enter employment, change employment sectors, or go on to further study?
Is distance learning a viable alternative?
My previous blog focussed on how the new Vice Chancellor of the Open University, Martin Bean, aims to engage employers and employees in distance learning opportunities through new web technologies. Whether online or in traditional print-based media, distance learning has long offered a cost-effective way forward for those who, for work, family, health or economic reasons cannot attend college courses. Home educated children, busy working parents, those with special needs, and those who have always wanted to know more about a subject but, until retirement, have never had time to pursue their interest, have all found opportunities to study through the flexibility of distance learning courses.
New web technologies now offer the possibility of online distance learning within the context of web communities of learners with whom students can make online contact about their subject. As distance learning organisations open up their courses to new media they can reach out and bring together those with shared interests. Students can access online resources in a systematic way, and make the best use of their time. Such courses offer a cost-effective route to essential qualifications, vital both to the student and the national economy as a whole.
Oxford Open Learning
Oxford Open Learning has over twenty years’ experience in helping thousands of students to gain qualifications, and others simply to satisfy a lifetime’s curiosity about a subject. We offer courses in English, Maths, Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, French, Spanish, History, Geography, Law, Accounting, Business Studies, Psychology and Sociology at GCSE, IGCSE and A Level. We also offer courses in Educational Administration, Accounting and Business Management. Our Key Stage 3 courses are very popular with parents and children in the home education community. We have a Creative Writing School, and also offer courses to those who want to brush up on basic numeracy and literacy skills.
We share Vince Cable’s view that ‘education and learning are desirable in their own right’, and hope that his department’s increased emphasis on lifelong learning will enable the colleges still to hold out that lifeline. But we also share a hope that through new technologies, online distance learning will enable new communities of learners to achieve their goals.
If you would like to know more about our courses contact us for more information. Your call is free.