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Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. The term recognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout one’s life and in a range of situations.

Discuss the following issues related to lifelong learning:

  • The importance of lifelong learning.
  • The different ways of engaging in lifelong learning.
  • What schools should do to prepare young learners to be lifelong learners.
  • What are the challenges you have faced when engaging in lifelong learning?
What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong Learning is the ongoing, voluntary and sell- motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.  Therefore, lifelong learning not only leads to the enhancement of active citizenship, social inclusion and personal development but also competitiveness, self- sustainability and employability (Ates & Alsal, 2012). The term identifies that learning is not limited to classroom or childhood but it takes place in a variety of situation throughout the life of an individual. Therefore, the term lifelong learning can be defined as all learning activity carried out throughout the life of an individual with the objective of improving skills, knowledge, and competencies within a civic, social, personal and / or employment- related perspective.   It can also be regarded as the learning that takes place after the formal edification years of childhood and into adulthood. Its requirement arises naturally as the learner needs to gain knowledge for personal and professional reasons. The concept has gained importance due to the emergence of new technologies that changes the manner of receiving and gathering information and collaborating and communicating with others.  

Success in any field can be achieved only when an individual engages in continuous learning (Thrun, 2012). The information and knowledge in every field is increasing day by day thereby requiring an individual to increase the knowledge and keep it up to date. The importance of lifelong learning is highlighted in its beneficial effect on the general wellness of an individual (Davies, Keith, Longworth & Norman, 2014).

Both body and mind are kept in shape with the help of lifelong learning. Continued cognitive activity is found to have an optimistic effect on the brain cells and assists in promoting mental sharpness, specifically for senior citizens. Physically, lifelong learning involves taking dance classes or exercise, picking a new sport or learning how to swim (Jarvis, 2012). Lifelong learning is important due to the following reasons:

For good conversation- Lifelong learners have various interesting things to say and are good at holding their own conversations. In other words, they are good at engaging other people in their conversations. People like to have conversation with someone who is well- read rather than a person who is not updated regarding anything since the last decade.

The world keeps changing- The world is fluid which means it keeps on changing and things never stay the same. Therefore, the importance of continuous learning arises with the view to keeping up with the changes.

Benefits of Lifelong Learning

For the development of abilities- Every individual has its own abilities and talents. But for the purpose of obtaining masters in those talents, an individual needs to be a lifelong learner in order to continuously improve those skills and learning new ones.

For opening the mind- The more sides of an issue are visible to an individual when the knowledge is increased. Reading, holding conversations with others and watching intelligent television educates a person regarding the viewpoint of others. It helps an individual in understanding that every issue that has more than one side.

For cultivating a hunger for learning- Once an individual proceeds towards lifelong learning, he/she is not likely to stop. In other words, the more knowledge a person gains, the more he/ she will want to know which means that a hunger for learning will be promoted within that individual.       

The importance of lifelong learning has also been increasing due to various reasons. Such reasons include increase in old- age dependency ratio, increase in life expectancy, desire for increasing the quality of life and efforts made by individuals for the purpose of keeping themselves in good mental and physical condition (Evans, Schoon & Weale, 2013). Professional learning is important as it results in improving the resume of an individual and provides a chance in moving towards a more preferred or better paying position. On the other hand, the importance of personal learning lies in the fact that it enriches the life of an individual with the help of things that spark their curiosity (Luftenegger, et. al., 2012). 

The process of learning should not stop after the graduation if an individual from the high school or college (Findsen & Formosa, 2012). In today’s dynamic environment, success can be achieved only when an attitude is developed which accepts continuous learning. With the emergence of technology, it is easier to learn through the life. Resources can be found online which can be used for the purpose of following the passion of improving craft skills, languages and developing a mobile app. There are a number of ways for engaging in lifelong learning.

Keeping smart company- Staying in a smart company is the best way of engaging in lifelong learning. This includes reaching out the contacts that are admired and talking with some influencers on Twitter along with organizing meetings with them for the purpose of exploring various ideas and learning topics. This also requires staying in contact with the people who acted as an inspiration to learn continuously in life.

Importance of Lifelong Learning

Finding a job that encourages collaboration and learning- Some degree of learning is involved in most of the professional roles whether it is workshops, on the job training or other educational encouragement. Therefore, the career should be pursued in an evolving area which will ensure lifelong learning and the development of the skillset.

Reading widely and often- For the purpose of engaging in lifelong learning, a person should read newspapers, books and search for the content related to the areas of interest on the internet (Koller, 2012). This will help in obtaining comprehensive knowledge about the topic (Aspin, Chapman, Hatton & Sawano, 2012).

Experimenting with the new ways of learning- When a variety of ways of learning are experimented, ultimately the best way of learning is found out. Creating mind maps, watching documentaries, drawing diagrams and making the use of music while studying are some of the alternative ways which can be approached for learning.  

Attending classes in the real world- Along with learning through online courses, learning can also take place in the presence of students and teachers where an environment of intellectual dialogue is found.  Continuing education is offered by various colleges and universities. Classes are offered by Jewish community centers, churches and community recreation centers relating to religious history, bible study and computer literacy which produce life- enhancing effects within an individual (Miller, 2017).

Making it a priority- Instead of relying on tomorrow for learning new things, an individual should aim at making today that day when new things are to be learned. Therefore, learning should be made a priority in life. When it is not given enough importance in life, the amount of information known and the ability of gaining knowledge in the long- term are limited.  

Schools need to instill the desire and ability with the students in order to encourage the young learners to be the lifelong learners. There are a variety of methods which can be adopted by the schools for the purpose of helping their students in moving towards the direction of obtaining the attributes of a lifelong learner. Following are the attributes of a lifelong learner.

Active Investigator- The schools should teach their students to initiate hypothesis or questions regarding a particular topic. This will require the students to make the use of variety of information for the purpose of locating, collecting, sorting and recording information. To be an active investigator will assist the students in becoming lifelong learners.

Methods for Engaging in Lifelong Learning

Critical thinker- The schools need to assist their students in using various strategies for the purpose of analyzing and synthesizing information. From their research, they will be required evaluate the data for finding out its usefulness for the question in hand. Becoming a critical thinker will assist the young learners to be lifelong learners (Edwards, Raggatt & Small, 2013).

Self- directed Learner- Schools should assist their students by considering their prior knowledge, learning styles along with their strengths and weaknesses. To be a self- directed learner will assist the students in moving towards becoming a lifelong learner (Boyer, Edmondson, Artis & Fleming, 2014).

Effective Communicator- Schools should encourage their students to demonstrate and express their thoughts, emotions and ideas relating to the topic of investigation. Schools should also allow them to work in collaborative situations which will assist in facilitating good communication. To be an effective communicator will assist the young learners in becoming lifelong learners.

Problem solving skills- Schools should provide students with opportunities to brainstorm together and finding out different ways to reaching to the end solution. The learning of problem solving skills will depend on the kind of issue being explored (Barros, 2012).

Confidence building skills- Schools should take steps for developing an ‘I can’ attitude in the students. Moreover, schools should also aim at instilling confidence in their students in order to help them know that they can explore, learn and achieve success on their own. For this purpose, providing opportunities to them is very important (Leone, 2013).

Schools can assist in the development of these attributes by providing their students with learning experiences that deal with the real world scenarios (Griffin, Holford & Jarvis, 2013).

Personal learning can be said to be a never ending journey (Milana, 2012). In order to succeed in today’s dynamic environment and for obtaining benefits for my career and reaching my full potential, I engaged in lifelong learning (Harteis & Goller, 2014). I followed my passion for learning new languages belonging to different parts of the globe. It assisted me in reaching my full potential and achieving self- actualization. However, I faced a variety of challenges while engaging in lifelong learning.

Learning new skills require a considerable amount of time which varies from a month to years. Along with time, it also requires substantial energy, especially in cases when the new behavior runs counter to habits (Human Capital Leadership Institute, 2017). I found myself trapped in a status quo as I made insufficient efforts for remembering the knowledge of new languages. My existing habits stopped me from paying enough attention to the new behaviors.

Attributes of a Lifelong Learner

The more knowledge I gained regarding the different languages belonging to different parts of the world, I started overestimating my skills. The languages started appearing to be simpler to understand than they actually were. Also, I did not understood the knowing- doing gap until I tried out the language with someone possessing superior knowledge of the language.  In other words, I started believing that I have already attained the goal of learning and there is no need left of continuing the learning process.

When I started learning new languages, I expected support and cooperation from the people I interact with (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2012). I found some of them to be unwilling and unable to offer support which in turn demotivated me from carrying out the learning process. Also, I was unable to carry out my job and the learning process simultaneously. Therefore, it needed a lot of courage to overcome all the challenges in the way and continue engaging in lifelong learning.

Conclusion

Lifelong Learning is the continuing, deliberate and sell- motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It is a learning activity which is carried out by an individual throughout the life with the objective of enhancing the knowledge, skills and competencies within a personal, civic, social and employment related perspective (UNESCO, 2015). Therefore, it can be concluded that lifelong learning is very important for keeping the mind and body in shape. It also allows an individual to stay updated with the changes taking place in the world. It is very important for the personal and professional development of an individual. Schools have the capability of instilling the attributes of lifelong learners in their students by assisting them in becoming a critical thinker, active investigator, effective communicator and self- directed learner. Moreover, an individual should stay in smart company, make learning a priority and always experiment new ways of learning for the purpose of engaging in lifelong learning.    

References

Aspin, D. N., Chapman, J., Hatton, M. & Sawano, Y. (2012). International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Springer Science & Business Media.

Ates, H., & Alsal, K. (2012). The importance of lifelong learning has been increasing. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 4092-4096.

Barros, R. (2012). From lifelong education to lifelong learning: Discussion of some effects of today’s neoliberal policies. European journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 3(2), 119-134.

Boyer, S. L., Edmondson, D. R., Artis, A. B., & Fleming, D. (2014). Self-directed learning: A tool for lifelong learning. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(1), 20-32.

Davies, Keith, W., Longworth & Norman. (2014). Lifelong Learning. Routledge.

Edwards, R., Raggatt, P., & Small, N. (Eds.). (2013). The learning society: challenges and trends. Routledge.

Evans, K., Schoon, I., & Weale, M. (2013). Can lifelong learning reshape life chances?. British Journal of Educational Studies, 61(1), 25-47.

Findsen, B., & Formosa, M. (2012). Lifelong learning in later life (Vol. 7). Springer Science & Business Media.

Griffin, C., Holford, J., & Jarvis, P. (Eds.). (2013). International perspectives on lifelong learning. Routledge.

Harteis, C., & Goller, M. (2014). New skills for new jobs: Work agency as a necessary condition for successful lifelong learning. In Promoting, assessing, recognizing and certifying lifelong learning (pp. 37-56). Springer, Dordrecht.

Human Capital Leadership Institute. (2017). Lifelong Learning: The Challenges and How to Beat Them. Retrieved March 15, 2018 from https://www.hcli.org/articles/lifelong-learning-challenges-and-how-beat-them

Jarvis, C. (2012). Fiction, empathy and lifelong learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 31(6), 743-758.

Koller, D. (2012). What we're learning from online education. TED talk,(June).

Leone, S. (2013). Characterisation of a personal learning environment as a lifelong learning tool. Springer Science & Business Media.

Luftenegger, M., Schober, B., Van de Schoot, R., Wagner, P., Finsterwald, M., & Spiel, C. (2012). Lifelong learning as a goal–Do autonomy and self-regulation in school result in well prepared pupils?. Learning and Instruction, 22(1), 27-36.

Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2012). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Milana, M. (2012). Political globalization and the shift from adult education to lifelong learning. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 3(2), 103-117.

Miller, E. W. (2017). 4 Ways to Stay Engaged With Lifelong Learning. Retrieved March 15, 2018 from https://www.livehappy.com/self/4-ways-stay-engaged-lifelong-learning

Thrun, S. (2012). Explanation-based neural network learning: A lifelong learning approach (Vol. 357). Springer Science & Business Media.

UNESCO. (2015). Lifelong Learning. Retrieved March 15, 2018 from https://en.unesco.org/world-education-forum-2015/5-key-themes/lifelong-learning

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