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Mere platitudes or realistically achievable? An evaluation of current lifelong learning policy in Australia

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Lifelong learning has come to be seen almost universally as essential for effective personal and social functioning in the modern world. Subsequently it has become the basis for educational and social policies in many modern societies, but not Australia where a spokesperson for the previous, conservative Liberal-Coalition federal government indicated that Australia does not have a policy on lifelong learning because it does not need one. Reasons given included that Australia has the highest post-compulsory education participation rate among OECD countries. This article establishes a range of criteria for assessing the effectiveness of lifelong learning policies. It then critically reviews literature on the effectiveness of lifelong learning policy in Australia and concludes that assumptions under-girding policy thinking are seriously flawed. Evidence from secondary completion rates, ratings in international benchmarking studies, and post-compulsory vocational education policies in particular, indicate that the Australian federal government has seriously overestimated the effective bases for continuing, effective lifelong learning. It is concluded that the likelihood of a national framework being created and serious policies developed and implemented by the Australian federal government to promote effective lifelong learning is not great at present, but with a new government promising an education 'revolution', there is now at least some possibility of change.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Faculty of Education, University of Technology, Sydney

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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