Industrial-scale or Community-focussed?

One of the issues facing education post-Brexit is the vision of education, and the health service, for that matter, as industrial scale services organised mass provision when learning needs, and health needs, are so deeply personal. It is not surprising that the last ten years has seen reductions in those services defined as and located in “community“.

Where I live, in Devon, we have seen the running down and closure of community hospitals (six) in recent months and the relocation of services to larger regional facilities. In further education there has been a long-term running down of community provision and facilities for adult informal education and the forced merger of colleges, to create regional rather than local entities at greater scale, due to Government skills policies and their implementation by FE Commissioners conducting “area” reviews.


The concomitant effects of these changes have been to narrow down the focus of welfare payments to individuals while public subsidies are eliminated and to create narrowing of the curriculum offer to meet “the skills needs of employers” despite the evidence to suggest that employers are poor at identifying the future skills needs of their workforces, or responding to technology change or even the affordances of new technologies. Despite 20 years of Government mantras promoting “employer-led” further education, the engagement of employers in further education at local levels has not increased and neither has employer investment in training for the majority of their workers, even with incentives.

In the UK, schooling (we make a critical distinction between schooling and learning) is becoming both more prescriptive and selective, leading to the creation of failure in personal, community and class terms,  while the range of content is reduced to meet politico-industrial goals based on elitist and behavioural goals formally articulated through national agencies and endlessly reinforced through political messages.

This industrial-scale national education system characterises the Age of Anger, being focused on the adversarial and discriminatory elements of national cultures seen through the lens of economic competition. Such approaches substitute indoctrination for learning. We have learned that the most powerful learning comes from collaboration and trust (see Trust The Learner) rather than schooling and teacher focused education, which characterises the Conservative vision of post -Brexit education. As we develop this analysis we will outline more fully what a learner-centered and community focused alternative might look like.

(Nigel Ecclesfield)

A more-detailed discussion on how to achieve this can be found in our paper on Community-based hubs as part of our work Towards an Adult Education Architecture of Participation.


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