Six ages towards a learning region — a retrospective

Longworth, N. and Osborne, M. (2010) Six ages towards a learning region — a retrospective. European Journal of Education, 45(3), pp. 368-401.

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Publisher's URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-3435.2010.01436.x/abstract

Abstract

Learning Cities and Learning Regions are terms now in common use as a result of the growing importance of lifelong learning concepts to the economic, social and environmental future of people and places. Why ‘learning’ regions? Why not intelligent, creative, clever, smart or knowledge regions? In truth, all of these can, and some do, also exist, but we argue that this is not a semantic debate. The basis of intelligence, smartness, cleverness, creativity and knowledge is effective learning and its intelligent application in creating a better future. We can, we believe, only learn our way into the future and the same is true, in developmental terms, of cities, towns, regions and communities.

What therefore is a learning region? Definitions tend to differ according to perception, situation, occupation and objective. Where the focus is on technology a learning region will emphasise the advantages of hi-tech for the development of a physical infrastructure that will assist regeneration and be useful for more efficient behaviour and learning by people and organisations. Hence the growth of ‘smart cities,’ mainly in North America.

Where it is on employment, employability, organisational management and training for industry, the development of human and social capital for economic gain and competitive edge tends to predominate. Most regions concentrate on this aspect.

Where the motivation is based on the use of valuable resources, it will concentrate on volunteering, active citizenship and the building of social capital. Such an approach is not well developed in many regions and the optimum balance between economic, community and personal growth is poorly understood.

Where the goal is the competent use of organisational potential a learning region will mobilise all its stakeholder institutions as partners in the service of the region as a whole. Here, very little is understood or implemented.

This article argues that all of these approaches and others in the fields of environment, personal and cultural growth, innovation, diversity and communication are a holistic part and parcel of learning region development. Its meaning and its characteristics will become clear as it charts the development of ideas about learning regions, particularly those that have occurred during the past 20 years. It suggests the existence of a paradigm shift at work — the age of education and training, which has served us well in the late 20th century in satisfying the needs of a growing, upwardly mobile proportion of the population, has now given way to the era of lifelong learning, in which the means, the tools and techniques are employed to target and motivate everyone in a city, town or region. Those regions that achieve this nirvana will be the winners in the apparent paradox that intelligent local action leads to success in a globalised world, a version of the concept of ‘glocalisation’ coined by Robertson (1995).

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Osborne, Professor Michael
Authors: Longworth, N., and Osborne, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Social Justice Place and Lifelong Education
College of Social Sciences > School of Education
University Services > Learning and Teaching Services Division
Journal Name:European Journal of Education
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
ISSN:0141-8211
ISSN (Online):1465-3435
Published Online:30 July 2010

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