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Learning Futures Conference, Leicester 9 th -10 th January 2007. Professor Bob Fryer CBE National Director for Widening Participation in Learning. Living in an era of profound & widespread social & cultural change.

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Professor Bob Fryer CBE National Director for Widening Participation in Learning

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Learning Futures Conference, Leicester

9th-10th January 2007

Professor Bob Fryer CBE

National Director for Widening Participation in Learning

Living in an era of profound & widespread social & cultural change

  • Changes in social, political & cultural institutions (Family, Politics, Consumption etc)

  • Restructuring of work, employment & industry

  • Shifts in personal & group identities & aspirations

  • A growing tendency for ‘choice’

  • An information & knowledge revolution

  • Changing technologies

  • Greater localism within globalisation

  • Social fragmentation & division

  • New forms & expressions of citizenship

What sorts of learning & what kinds of learners are appropriate for the ‘emergent’ world

‘Emergent world’ has many different labels:

  • Post-industrial

  • Late- or post-capitalist

  • Networked

  • Information-based

  • Knowledge-driven

  • Learning

  • Late- or post-modern

  • Risk

    All contrast sharply with the classic description of rationalist, de-personalised, expert, calculative & instrumental bureaucracy

“Only the well educated will be able to act effectively in the Information Society.”

“The key to the Learning Society is to seek the learning potential in everyday situations….A ‘learning culture’ must, after all mean finding learning in the most unlikely places….

Michael Barber, The Learning Game

What is Happening to the World of Work?

  • Structural changes in industries & occupations

  • Demand for new skills & competences

  • Challenges of greater competitiveness

  • Technological change

  • Globalisation

  • New sorts of workplace - flatter structures, project management - “fuzzy” boundaries

  • Non- and de-unionisation

  • No more ‘jobs for life’

  • Household & 3-generational un/underemployment

  • Need for workers to be flexible, adaptive & creative

  • Stress & getting the ‘work-life balance’ right

The Drive for Skills

Skills =

  • Opportunity

  • Employability

  • Choice

  • Life chances

  • Prosperity

  • Good health/wellbeing

  • ‘Capital’

  • Competitiveness

The ‘Leitch’ Report December 2006: some simple data

“Prosperity for all in the global economy: world class skills”


  • ‘Skills’ mentioned 1727 times!

  • Global/globalization mentioned 120 times

  • ‘Flexibility’ mentioned 14 times

  • Innovative/innovation mentioned 3 times

  • Talent mentioned 1 time

  • Creative/creativity mentioned 0 times

  • Imaginative/imagination mentioned 0 times

  • Inventive/inventiveness mentioned 0 times

  • Ingenious/ingenuity mentioned 0 times

  • Intuitive/intuition mentioned 0 times

What do employers and governments typically say they want on the ‘skills’ front?

  • New entrants with ‘employability’ characteristics

  • More emphasis on, & respect for, ‘vocational’ learning in schools, colleges & universities

  • Increased focus on science & maths

  • A continuously ‘learning’ workforce

  • Staff who upgrade their skills several times throughout working life

  • More intermediate and higher level ‘technical’ skills

  • Better management and leadership skills

  • Markedly improved information handling & knowledge management skills

  • A greater emphasis on ‘competence’

Max Weber’s ‘Ideal Type’ Bureaucracy

  • Fixed & official areas, ordered by rules

  • Stable authority, also delimited by rules

  • Offices graded in professional hierarchies

  • Management basedon written documentation

  • Regular activities distributed as fixed duties, carried out by appointed officials

  • Office separated from private interests & households

  • Office holding is a ‘vocation’ demanding the full capacity of the office holder, with prospects of a tenured ‘career’

  • Duties performed only by employees with regulated qualifications based on prescribed & special exams

  • Bureaucracy depends upon stable rules, which can be learned & which represent special technical learning

Bureaucracy’s ‘optimum’ possibilities

  • Modern culture demands the ‘calculability’ of results

  • Carrying through the principle of specialist administration according to objective considerations

  • ‘Without regard for persons’ is the watchword of the ‘market’ & of naked economic interests

  • Capitalism welcomes bureaucracy’s special virtue of ‘dehumanisation’ – eliminating all affective considerations of love, hatred, irrationality & emotional elements that escape calculation

Endorsement of the value of learning from business leaders

  • “Our behavior is driven by a fundamental core belief: The desire and ability of an organization to continuously learn from any source – and to rapidly covert this learning into action – is its ultimate competitive advantage.”

  • Jack Welch, CEO General Electric

The distinct advantages of bureaucracy – especially for the capitalist market economy

Just right for schemes based on ‘competence’

“The fully developed bureaucratic mechanism compares with other organisations exactly as does the machine with the non-mechanical modes of production.

Precision, speed, unambiguity, knowledge of the files, continuity, discretion, unity, strict subordination, reduction of friction & of material and personal costs – these are raised to the optimum point in the strictly bureaucratic organisation.”

Bureaucracy’s well-known drawbacks

  • Tendency to organisational conservatism & sclerosis

  • Hide-bound by rules & protocols

  • Over-emphasis on formality, ‘stuffiness’

  • Rigidity of hierarchy & divisions of roles or responsibilities

  • Resistance to change

  • Performance only to minimum required standards

  • ‘Jobsworth’ mentalities

  • Lack of nimbleness, unlikely to innovate

Governments & employers also want ‘creativity’

Creativity =

  • Novelty

  • Imagination

  • Critical minds

  • Originality

  • Innovation

  • Flexibility

  • Change/Progress

  • Revolution

  • Beauty

  • Transformation

  • Transcendence

Beyond rules, definitions & specificity?

The ‘emergent world’ of work demands:

  • The ‘navigation’ of risk

  • Confident ‘boundary crossers’

  • Working ‘beyond the rules’

  • Creative entrepreneurs (“The French don’t have a word for it.”)

Towards ‘Risk Society’ (Beck)





Risk Society








Rules & Structures

Multiple &

Contested Information

& Knowledge

‘Turbo Capitalism’: an Age of Uncertainty & Insecurity?

“No jobs are guaranteed, no positions are foolproof, no skills are of lasting utility, experience and know-how turn into liabilityas soon as they become assets, seductive careers all too often prove to be suicide tracks. In their present rendering, human rightsdo not entail the acquisition of a right to a job, however well performed , or - more generally - the right to care and consideration for the sake of past merits. Livelihood, social position, acknowledgement of usefulness and the entitlement to self-dignity may allvanish together, overnight and without notice.”

Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodernity & its Discontents, page 22

An emergent model of learning

Source: Jarvis 2001

The Urgency of ‘tertiary’ learning

“The world in which post-modern men and women need to live their lives and shape their life strategies puts a premium on ‘tertiary learning’ - a kind of learning which our inherited institutions, born and matured in the modern ordering bustle are ill prepared to handle; and one which educational theory, developed as a reflection of modern ambitions and their institutional embodiments, can only view with a mixture of bewilderment and horror, a pathological growth or a portent of advancing schizophrenia.”

Source: Bauman, op. cit.

What do we mean by ‘learning cultures’?

  • Learning is ‘woven’ into life or work

  • Learning takes many forms – formal & informal, explicit & tacit, certificated or not

  • Everyone is involved in learning

  • Learning & learning opportunities are ubiquitous

  • Learning & learners are supported effectively

  • Learning increases self-esteem & well-being

  • Learning brings rewards & progression

  • Learning is ‘endorsed’ by all organisational signs, symbols, myths, emblems, representations & material character

  • Learning is ‘normal’ around here

Why do organisations want to develop ‘learning cultures’?

Very elusive & slippery concept, often sloppily deployed. But to:

  • Secure or maintain ‘competitive advantage’

  • Recruit, retain & motivate staff

  • Promote key organisational knowledge, skills, attitudes & behaviour

  • Underpin organisational values & priorities

  • Inspire creativity, innovation & enterprise

  • Drive & respond to change

  • Link learning toeffective action & implementation

The Core Purposes of Learning

According to the celebrated Jacques Delors Commission on Lifelong Learning, The Treasure Within

  • Learning to Know (learning to learn, general knowledge & understanding)

  • Learning to Do (skills, competence, practical ability in a variety of settings)

  • Learning to Live Together (tolerance, mutual understanding, interdependence)

  • Learning to Be (personal autonomy & responsibility, memory, aesthetics, ethics, communication & physical capacity)

Personalised learning & learners’ needs

Personal, pastoral, motivational & developmental

Learners’ needs,

sociabilities &




Administrative, financial & organisational support

Academic, pedagogic, content & technical support

Resources, facilities & technologies

Lifestyles, cultures & work-life balances

Learning outcomes & credit

Pre-requisites for Learner Attainment


Policy &




Needs &




(Equity &



& ‘Learning



‘Reach’ &


Society &




Advice &




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