In the fast-paced world we’re living in, those who stop learning once their school days are over risk being left behind, say Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University experts.
An old proverb said, Jonathan doesn’t know what Jon didn’t learn, In today’s information age, this statement can be reworded – both Jon and Jonathan participate in lifelong learning. Both of them are learning, only that the pace of acquiring knowledge and their interests are different. One is discovering the world and the other is trying to somehow comprehend the world. The world is changing at such a rate that learning and improving oneself has become a lifestyle. Only the focus of learning is somewhat different in each period of life.
Is it the return of the education buzzwords: holistic learning? Is going away from vocational learning to “learning as a human right” what the world needs at this moment?
The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) has published a new report setting out a future-focused vision of education and demanding a major shift towards a culture of lifelong learning by 2050.
Embracing a culture of lifelong learning, UIL’s contribution to the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education, argues that creating a global culture of lifelong learning will be key to addressing the challenges faced by humanity, from the climate crisis to technological and demographic change, not to mention those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the inequalities it has exacerbated.
It calls on the international community to recognize lifelong learning as a new human right.
UIL Director David Atchoarena explains: “We are emerging from a period characterized by an excessive focus on the vocational and skills dimensions of lifelong learning. Recognizing the complexity and multi-dimensional nature of the challenges faced by humanity calls for the restoration of a holistic vision of learning throughout life”.
Looking to the future, the report sets out 10 key messages, each critical for creating a culture of lifelong learning:
- Recognize the holistic character of lifelong learning
- Promote transdisciplinary research and intersectoral collaboration for lifelong learning
- Place vulnerable groups at the core of the lifelong learning agenda
- Establish lifelong learning as a common good
- Ensure greater and equitable access to learning technology
- Transform schools and universities into lifelong learning institutions
- Recognize and promote the collective dimension of learning
- Encourage and support local lifelong learning initiatives, including learning cities
- Reengineer and revitalize workplace learning
- Recognize lifelong learning as a human right
It is a truism that even the best universities in the world cannot accurately predict the skills that will be needed in the workplace 10 years from now, let alone 100 years, hence the importance of teaching university students how to learn, something also referred to as metacognition.
Lifelong learning refers to holistic learning for life and work. It comprises a number of pillars of learning including: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, learning to be, learning to earn, and learning how to learn.
Learning how to learn is what universities in Africa need to teach, for this will ensure that when learners are confronted with unique and complex problems, they have the capability to learn, unlearn and re-learn how to address complex problems, as pointed out by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock.
Lifelong Learning is NOT just for the young.
“In academia, we often apply the term “lifelong learner” to mature or non-traditional students, but all students should reframe their higher education experience to include explorative, self-directed and self-initiated learning in order to satisfy their interests and remain engaged with learning.
Lifelong learning is self-initiated and self-directed education focused on personal development and fulfillment. Lifelong learning can be formal or informal and occurs within and outside of educational institutions. Lifelong learning happens on a daily basis, through formal education, socialization, trial and error, and/or self-initiated study, and is based on our natural interests, curiosity and personal motivations. The desire to learn must come from ourselves, not someone else. Lifelong learning is ongoing, occurring throughout one’s lifetime.”
Called “the perfect fit for OLLI,” OLLI member Diane Senerth has revived an 18th century conversation club and brought it to the 21st century for lifelong learning.
Last fall, the University of Delaware’s Wilmington-based Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) became the first OLLI program in the country to start a Ben Franklin Circle discussion group, modeled after Benjamin Franklin’s 18th century conversation club focused on civility and mutual self-improvement.
The 21st-century version was founded at New York City’s 92nd Street Y, and now boasts over 300 chapters across the U.S.
OLLI member Diane Senerth read about Ben Franklin Circles in a New Yorker article and immediately thought of her fellow lifelong learners. The Ben Franklin Circle Discussion Group at OLLI began meeting as an extracurricular activity in 2019 and continued in 2020 on its path of exploration and discussion of Ben Franklin’s 13 virtues of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, chastity, tranquility and humility.
One silver lining in the pandemic response is that it proved the validity of using digital platforms to continue learning. This will continue to influence the way education is disseminated, according to Jane Morrison-Ross of The Scotsman.
She lays out the impact it will have on teaching and learning for generations to come: https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/jane-morrison-ross-digital-success-offers-opportunity-launch-lifelong-learning-revolution-2924232
A class addressing a timely topic:
Mental health has always been an exceptionally important issue for people of all ages, one that is highlighted during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Does the health care system in America deal adequately with issues of mental health and emotional well-being? When do we reach out for help, to whom can we turn for assistance? How do different societies and cultures deal with these issues? This conversation is intended to address these and other related questions in a way that is engaging and empowering for all.
Work is changing and lifelong learning is becoming a requirement. In response, educational systems around the world will have to shift both what they teach and how they’re financed.
If you think disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation only affect lower-skilled workers, not professionals like you, think again.
True, the widespread use of robotics and automation has hit manufacturing workers hard as it forges ahead to put millions in routine, repetitive tasks out of work.
But when an online healthcare platform like China’s Ping An Good Doctor can diagnose more than 2,000 illnesses just through questions and answers and can prescribe medications within one minute, then medical jobs are no longer as secure.
You and your professional jobs, too, can be caught off guard sooner than you think.
Investing in new skills is necessary to cope with rapid technological change. This is where the government should come in. The big question is what is the right thing for the government to do to soften the pangs of disruptive technologies in the workforce?