The latest version of php is php 5.4. There were some changes to php 5.3 and then to php 5.4, but pretty much everything you learn in a course on php 5.2 will be usable. I'd suggest for a beginner to php, you should be fine to start there.
It's usually good to know some older versions of the program and not just the latest version.
it really depends on what you want to do. If you plan on becoming professional php developer then chances are you will see programs written
in older versions of php, like 5.2 for example.
It's generally good to know since what version a certain feature of php became available.
You should always know that latest stable version of the program and maybe some features from development version, so regardless of whether or not you plan on learning 5.2 you definitely must learn 5.3 and then some of the newest features in 5.4
I'd like to just iterate that a different way. I don't necessarily agree that you MUST learn 5.3 and 5.4, but I will say it this way:
You MUST be able to find out what changed in the newer versions
It is a known fact that books become obsolete quickly. Finding a book that is using 5.2 is perfectly acceptable and in 98% of the examples will work flawlessly using 5.3 or 5.4 of PHP. Whenever you run into an issue with PHP (regarding a function parameter mismatch, or you want the parameter to perform a bit differently), your first visit should be to http://php.net and searching on that function! You will be amazed how some additional parameters/functionality were added in newer versions of PHP.
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