We can Champion Lifelong Learning Through 4-day Week
I had some great conversations today with members in Pentwyn and Llanederyn about education. There was some important feedback on driving up standards in schools, but the focus was not exclusively on children’s education. Instead I spent more time discussing the need for more and better access to adult education and lifelong learning in Wales.
I couldn’t agree more. We need to look at education policy as far broader than schools. Revolutionising the provision of adult education should be a central part of our national mission as we respond to the economic challenges approaching Wales.
There are potentially some quick wins. The lockdown has allowed online learning to become a more accepted and respected educational medium. With the right regulatory framework, quality control and incentives from Welsh Government, that familiarity with learning at home or at a work place could instigate a boom in online training that could rapidly accelerate adult learning take-up in Wales. We need to grasp that opportunity.
Alongside that should be an improvement in affordability of study. Thanks to the work of Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams Wales has one of the most generous and progressive post-graduate support packages. However we need to go further to improve affordability and access. It is likely that the costs of delivery of all teaching could fall as a result of greater numbers participating in online provision. That saving should be passed on to learners to increase access to courses, and Welsh Government should ensure that universities and colleges are funded appropriately to innovate in ways that drive down the costs of participation in learning.
But there is one measure that would, in my opinion, drive greater take-up of adult learning more than any other: a switch to a 4 day week. This is a profound shift in the way our economy functions, but it has the potential to revolutionise work and change our society for the better. As the number of jobs required in our economy potentially reduces as a result of COVID (and more fundamentally driven by automation and AI) we need to consider how we might better share the work around more evenly.
Crucially, a 4-day week would open up time in the week for people to devote to education and training to upskill for future economic changes. Or the time might be devoted to caring responsibilities or other priorities or passions.
A 4-day week is a profoundly liberal idea that puts more power back in the hands of people to shape their own lives. For that reason it is a radical change that I would welcome. But specifically in the context of turning Wales into a society that fully embraces lifelong learning, members were unanimous today that providing additional time in the week would be the most significant incentive to take up further training or learning. We need to champion the idea now more urgently than ever.
Let’s make a difference; let’s make time for learning by championing a 4-day week.