The role of the 'technical fix' in UK lifelong education policy
The integral place of information and communications technology (ICT) in UK lifelong education has been established by a series of technology-based initiatives introduced by the New Labour government since 1997. Initiatives such as the University for Industry, learndirect, People's Network and National Grid for Learning are being implemented as part of a coherent lifelong education policy-agenda fundamentally based upon the use of ICT. Yet, beneath the political enthusiasm for technology-based education, the role of ICT in lifelong learning remains largely unexamined and unproblematized, with many policy-makers and educationalists content to view technology as providing a 'technical fix' for many of education's problems. From this background, the present paper provides a critical perspective on the technological foundations of the UK government's lifelong education agenda. In particular, it examines the nature and form of the policies that have been introduced and then contrasts them with the rhetorical claims that are being made by government and other official actors. In this way the paper discusses how such policies continue to be shaped within a restrictive technocratic and determinist discourse of the 'technical fix', thus conforming to traditional narratives of society and technology. The paper then goes on to explore how such construction juxtaposes social and economic elements of the policy-drive and threatens, ultimately, to restrict the eventual educational effectiveness of these 'new' lifelong learning initiatives.
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