Education, schooling, Gove and Gramsci

‘Education’ is rarely out of the news these days, with a conveyor belt of reviews and reforms. Some recent social media exchanges have highlighted the distinction, made by the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci amongst others, between ‘education’ and ‘schooling’.

While we should acknowledge and welcome the fact that existing funding for adult and community learning was protected in last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review given the current economic climate, it seems that most of the reported policy discussion about ‘education’ is actually about ‘schooling’. The main focus appears to be on ideology and control in primary and secondary education.

Speaking at the recent Sunday Times Festival of Education, Prof. A C Grayling suggested that, “Teaching to the exam has squeezed out education in favour of schooling” (Earlier this year, Grayling placed a bid to open a free secondary school in Camden.)

In this context, it’s interesting to remember that Education Secretary Michael Gove told the Social Market Foundation of his admiration for Gramsci in a speech in February this year.  There’s a profile of Gramsci and his work at  Comparing and contrasting Gove and Gramsci’s thinking on education is a thought-provoking exercise.

Gove & Gramsci

The purpose of education continues to provide fertile ground for critical inquiry but adult educators argue that there should be a much greater emphasis on lifelong learning beyond school within policy debate and development.

There are many compelling reasons why education for all stages of life is important – not least so that parents and carers can support their children’s education and improve their attainment. We can’t rely on schools to educate children in a vacuum or assume that we’ve learnt all that we need to know or understand for the remaining 60+ years of our lives after we have left school.

Although it was published in 2009, Tom Schuller and David Watson’s report, “Learning Through Life: Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning” (, shows that education is relevant throughout life and should not be defined narrowly as ‘schooling’ for children and young people.

About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn:

7 Responses to Education, schooling, Gove and Gramsci

  1. gogwit says:

    Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    Ann a fascinating insight. Of course there are reasons why there should be a resonance between Gove and Gramsci, not least because of their emergence into intellectualism from humble and austere beginnings. That Gove has gone on to become an exemplar organic intellectual while Gramsci typifies the traditional mode is perhaps a function of geography and epoch – a reflection of zeitgeist in their formative years.
    And you are right to allude to the embryonic counter hegemony emerging – very evident in the social media – to the prevailing incarnation of the education vs schooling hegemony which currently favours schooling in its most functional and utilitarian guise.
    Much food for thought here, thank you for stimulating my grey matter.

  2. I would say that education throughout life is not only relevant, but essential. My grandfather was an excellent example of an auto-didact. The son of farm workers, he left school at 12 but, through constant reading right up to his death at 94, became one of the most learned men, on a wide range of subjects, I have ever come across. He was, incidentally, also a keen supporter of the WEA.

  3. Ann Walker says:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment Pete. Of course, I agree with your point.

    Your grandfather must have been an impressive man and it’s good to see that interest in the WEA has spanned generations of your family.

  4. Rosemary Mayes says:

    A very stimulating blog, Ann. I have to echo the previous comments – I too had an auto-didact for a grandfather – a welder in Portsmouth Dockyard unfortunately killed in an explosion at a relatively early age but a branch secretary for the WEA with the most amazing library which I have inherited.

    Ben’s comments about the education vs schooling debate also resonates especially today having just looked at the ‘new’ national cuuriculum proposals. As a 60 something product of a grammar school, a lot of it sounds very like a 1950s ‘education’

  5. Andria Birch says:

    Interesting film here linked to these issues raises lots of questions and ideas relevant to WEA in all UK countries:

    “A break through to genuine 21st Century practice – that is the challenge that faces us”

  6. Gaurav Goyal says:

    Nice blog, This is very helpful. If a person has studied till 10 class and he regularly keep in touch of education then he can be a successful person. Thanks for sharing.

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