There are two related problematical consequences of the pandemic. Firstly, the disruption of education and learning, resulting in future potential harm to the life chances of many young people, which also may have a detrimental effect to the development of our economy if we do not have appropriately qualified people to develop future opportunities. Secondly, the disruption to our economy with damage to various industries and the resulting prospect of future high unemployment.
The challenge is how do we mitigate the effects of the loss of learning to current students in schools, colleges and universities, as well as those in community learning centres? And how do we support those made unemployed, needing to retrain and develop their skills to create the new jobs and industries of the future?
The challenge needs to be addressed against the context of limited participation in lifelong learning.
According to research carried out by the Learning and Work Institute (LWI), (2020): ‚’currently year-on-year, around two-fifths of adults say that they are currently learning or have done so in the previous three years, while a third or more say that they have not learnt since full-time education‚’. In this context, learning can mean practicing, studying or reading about something. It can also mean being taught, instructed or coached.
In the current crisis, literacy, numeracy, digital, financial capability, health literacy, personal well being and a sense of citizenship will be crucial to people‚’s future job and career prospects, as well as their ability to be active and engaged in their communities. Yet, evidence from LWI (2020) show that many people do not have the skills they need. Nine million adults have low literacy or numeracy; 13 million have low digital skills.
The challenge is to expand opportunities for community based lifelong learning and increase participation.