Lifelong Learning and Crime: A Life-course Perspective

Published: Sep 2014

Professor John Bynner, Institute of Education, London

This paper addresses the financial and other benefits to society to be gained from lifelong learning as an antidote to crime. It starts by considering in general terms shifts in the policy perspective in the way that the links between learning and desistance from crime have been conceptualised, and the corresponding shifts in the way that education for offenders has been delivered.

Next, the evidence on the returns to be expected from educational interventions with offenders is reviewed, and the paper argues for a more broadly based methodological stance in relation to this kind of research than has typically been advocated in the past. The paper then pursues this strategy through the life-course perspective, as applied to offending and the key role of poor education in the social exclusion process that is frequently a key part of it. This leads to a consideration of the kind of lifelong learning scenario that, through matching needs in different contexts, is likely to yield no only the best financial returns, but wider social and democratic returns. Such ‘social productivity’ is the foundation for active and fulfilling citizenship.