A quick report during the first full day of the Lifelong Learning Conference being held in Yeppoon, Australia. On the right is a rather poor photograph of the poolside reception last night (the announcement had just been made that we could progress to the tables to eat, which is why people are turning eagerly away).
The first keynote paper was from Andre Grace, Alberta University, Canada, "Reflecting critically on lifelong learning in an era of neoliberal pragmatism: instrumental, social and cultural perspectives." It was a very interesting paper in which he considered the development of the concept of lifelong learning, and critiqued keynotes given at previous keynotes at the conference. This is the 4th LLL conference: previous ones were in 2000, 2002, and 2004. I've been to all of them from 2002 onwards, and it was valuable to be reminded of talks from previous years, but with the added critical perspective.
In terms of Andre's perspective on Lifelong Learning, he was noting the way in which the economic/vocational (rather than the personal, transformative) view of LLL often now dominates in international & national government discourse. This is where neoliberalism (if you focus on the economic perspective, other good things will follow) and pragmatism (focus on skill development for the knowledge economy) come in. In contrast, Andre saw the need for educators and "learner workers" to exercise their critical intelligence and not just see LLL as a means to being economically productive. Paulo Freire seems to get mentioned increasingly often, and Andre quoted his definition of critical intelligence "wakeful capacity for comprehending the new" (from Freire's Pedagogy of indignation.) All the ppts from this conference normally get put online, so in due course you'll be able to see this presentation.
I will postpone writing about the next session I attended as I'm shortly due to give a short talk about Information Literacy in the UK. I'm basing this in part on a paper I did with Claire McGuinness on IL in the UK and Ireland, for the UNESCO project on IL around the world at http://www.uv.mx/usbi_ver/unesco/ If you go to this site and click on Documents you'll see you can download the draft version of the "State of the art report" and my draft report is in that (I just submitted the updated version). It has reports on some other countries as well, obviously.