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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 00:46 GMT 01:46 UK
Search for lifelong learning culture
elderly people using computer (aerial shot)
More and more retired people are learning new skills
Too much testing at school may be making some youngsters feel they are failures and turning them off learning for life, a conference has been told.

Education experts are discussing how to make a reality of the government's ambition of everyone being engaged in "lifelong learning", at a conference at London University's Institute of Education.

Researchers, policy-makers and teachers have been considering the subject from a learner's point of view, trying to find out what might help or hinder them in their desire to learn.

Dr Ann Hodgson
Dr Ann Hodgson: "GCSEs may turn young people off"

An Institute of Education spokeswoman said they were looking to change the current approach to lifelong learning - based on overcoming failure - into a focus on building young people's confidence in themselves as learners from a very early age.

Conference adviser Dr Ann Hodgson said: "The goal must be to build learning strategies and assessment systems that will motivate young people to want to go on learning.

"Excessive testing and age-bound examinations, such as GCSEs - which effectively dub some learners as failures at the age of 16 - may turn many young people off education.

"Learners need to learn and achieve at their own pace so that they continue to feel motivated and believe that they can make progress."

The Lifelong Learning Minister, Malcolm Wicks, will tell the conference on Friday that a "special culture" is needed.

"Lifelong learning means creating a culture that allows people to learn what they want, when and where they want, and how they want," he will say.

"A culture where everyone knows the value of learning and expects to learn throughout life, from pre-school years to post-retirement."

When the conference ends the key findings will be published on the internet and sent to government ministers, their advisers, and other policy-makers.

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