Lifelong learning as serious leisure: policy, practice and potential
This paper seeks to examine the extent to which post-compulsory education can be viewed as a serious leisure activity. Such links between the fields of leisure studies and adult education have yet to be fully explored, especially from a UK perspective. Although Stebbins (1998) has explored the concept of learning serious leisure through adult education, the concept of adult education as serious leisure has yet to be examined. Since 1995 successive UK Governments have engaged in high profile policy initiatives to encourage 'lifelong learning', a somewhat controversial concept which has attracted criticism as well as a significant bandwagon. The principal impetus behind the policy is the perceived need to skill the workforce so that industry can operate in an increasingly competitive global market. Emphasized to a much lesser extent, however, is the wish to create a 'learning society' in which continual learning, (including that for non-vocational purposes) becomes integral within society, with a subsequent enhancement of social capital. It is argued that it is through learning as 'serious leisure', rather than as vocationally oriented that will be most appropriate for such a policy. In this paper the authors have sought to concentrate on this non-vocational dimension of lifelong learning and to explore the links between the concept of serious leisure and lifelong learning. The paper then draws upon literature from the fields of leisure studies and education policy to examine the implications of 'lifelong learning as leisure' for the individual, the community and society as a whole.