Where qualifications are concerned, you should never assume, according to David Hughes.
It is all too easy to fall into traps based on the assumptions we all make on a whole range of issues.
Most of the time assumptions help, but the one trap I always remind myself to avoid is thinking that everyone has positive views about learning and qualifications.
Despite most of the people I work and mix with sharing both good experiences of and success in learning, it is important to remember that significant numbers of adults are not so positive.
For many adults their experience of learning at school or at work, or in both, has not been good and they might have few, if any, qualifications.
Those experiences make them suspicious about learning and perhaps frightened of ‘looking stupid’.
I remember talking to a successful learner who told me she started learning when she decided to ‘do something about my reading and writing’ by enrolling on a college course.
It took nine visits before she actually walked though the door; a truly brave move. Many others do not make it through the door and for anyone the motivation it takes to overcome bad experiences is enormous.
Motivation is important, but so too are opportunities.
My other concern is about how useful blanket rules about the size of qualifications are and whether good and useful qualifications will be axed
That is why I was so concerned about this month’s media release from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills [BIS] telling of public funding cuts for so called ‘low-value’ qualifications.
The fact is these types of courses could actually be useful on a number of levels.
For many adults, these so-called ‘low-value’ courses are a great way to step back into learning, to help build confidence and self-esteem and to try learning in a bite-size chunk. These courses are often the springboard to move onto further courses and qualifications.
Take the story of Amanda Scales, from Brighton [see page 13], who started on a belly-dancing course but who is now a teacher after taking an access course and attending university where she got a degree.
Nobody believed when she started the belly-dancing that it would motivate her to become an inspirational teacher, least of all herself.
But that is the beauty of learning — becoming a learner, believing that you can learn, understanding and seeing things differently always have profound impacts on people at any age or stage of life.
My other concern is about how useful blanket rules about the size of qualifications are and whether good and useful qualifications will be axed.
Many employers appreciate the benefit of bite-sized courses when providing opportunities for their staff to progress at work. Smaller qualifications can often help employers meet a skills need swiftly and with powerful results.
I understand that there are lots of pressures on public funding and that the government wants to help improve the recognitions and understanding as well as the value of vocational qualifications.
We all want the same outcome — it is just not as simple as size and it is unfortunate that the BIS media release was intent on rubbishing the qualifications.
We should not underestimate how highly many adults value qualifications.
Every year, while shortlisting through the hundreds of Adult Learners’ Week award nominations, we hear from people about how incredible it was to gain a first qualification and how this spurred them on to continue learning, to progress at work and in life and go on to achieve so much more.
Cutting off any ‘re-entry point’ could mean many thousands of people missing out in the future with the obvious knock-on impact for the well-being of the economy and society.
David Hughes is the chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education