H. Rahanu1, N. Khan1, E. Georgiadou1, K. Siakas2

1Middlesex University London (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki (GREECE)
In the past it was expected that people would follow a career for life but in the last twenty years there has been a paradigm shift to a life of careers. The unprecedented growth of Information and Telecommunications Technologies (ICTs), the Globalisation of markets and the domination of individualistic and aggressive cultures as opposed to cultures based on loyalty to a single employer (as has largely been the case in Japan and other collective cultures) means that employees are always been trying to upgrade their skills and are prepared to constantly move from employer to employer and even from profession to profession. Thus they are challenged to engage in continuous lifelong learning throughout. However, a large amount of the world population is facing insurmountable obstacles as poverty and illiteracy stops them from reaching their full potential.

Participation in learning tends to decline as age increases. An inspection of the wide variety of aspects of adult participation in learning reveals that there are generic barriers to learning due to prejudices towards gender, age, social class and disability. Examples of specific obstacles, amongst numerous others, include: a lack of positive role models and support at home; inadequate resourcing for supporting learners with learning difficulties and / or disabilities; stereotyping; and cultural and religious barriers, for example, cultural traditions such as those preventing men and women from interacting.

Literacy is widely recognised as a fundamental human right, which empowers individuals and opens opportunities for social, economic and political integration. These days of information and knowledge society, the need for Information Literacy (IL) has become extremely important. IL can be defined as knowing when and why one might need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.

In this paper we argue that IL can help disadvantaged groups in both industrialised countries and emergent nations improve their opportunities for developing their intellectual potential. We report on case studies and initiatives from the IL movements that are addressing these hurdles to learning. It will be argued that it is naïve and simplistic to suppose that a solely technological solution will enable the learners to surmount obstacles to learning in order to improve their life chances. We advocate a more holistic approach, which requires the construction of legal, cultural, and economic infrastructures. We propose guidelines for diagnosing and prioritising problems, and we suggest strategies for remedial action.