Lifelong Learning

South Waikato Lifelong Learning Group > Lifelong Learning

What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong Learning is a ‘cradle to grave’ process and each and every member of our society plays an important and integral part in the welfare of our society.

Lifelong learning is a self-perpetuating process - the more successful it is, the more successful it becomes.

The core principles of Lifelong Learning include:

  • Learning should become as natural as breathing
  • Learning should be both lifelong and life-wide
  • Learning is about securing our future.
  • It is a cradle to grave process
  • It includes formal, non-formal, informal, and incidental learning
  • It is learner driven
  • It boosts confidence
  • It provides cohesion

The following list, which is the result of a year long in-depth study of six European Cities, expands the core principles:


Learning is accepted as a continuing activity throughout life


Learners take responsibility for their own progress


Assessment confirms progress rather than brands failure


Capability, person and shared values, team-working are recognised equally with the pursuit of knowledge.


Learning is a partnership between students, parents, teachers, employers and the community who all work together to improve performance.


Everyone accepts some responsibility for the learning of others.


Men, women, the disabled and minority groups have equal access to learning opportunities.


Learning is seen as creative, rewarding and enjoyable.


Learning is outward-looking, mind-opening and promotes tolerance, respect, and understanding of other cultures, creeds, races and traditions.


Learning is frequently celebrates individually, in families, in the community and in the wider world.

Why is Lifelong Learning important?

There is a need, seen by politicians, educators and business people alike, to “do something” about raising the general educational standards of adults world-wide and to look at broader definitions of ‘learning’. Drivers include:

  • Knowledge Economy
  • Globalisation
  • Specialisation
  • Diversity
  • Complexity, risk, uncertainty, sudden shifts

When seeking ways of addressing the need to become a Knowledge Society, we face a mix of uncertainty, risk, insecurity and division, but we also opportunity.

The challenges of rapid change are all around us. They can be seen in radical shifts in the organisation of industry, business and labour markets.

They are apparent in the rapid changes in occupations and the demand for new skills, and manifest themselves in new technology and communication systems. 

Gone are the days of a single career path for most people.

These challenges feature in the need to meet increased competition, and in the requirement for new skills and capacities at work. 

They are evident in the demand for new products and services and in the radical and far reaching transformation of technology, information and communications now in existence.

Social changes are having great impact on individuals in our modern world:

An ageing society - Statistics show that we are an ageing society. Life expectancy at present is into the 80s, but people are retiring or becoming unemployed at 50 something, so there is a need for these people to continue with active and interesting lives. 

“A truly human society is a learning society where grandparents, parents and children are students together” (Hoffer. 1973).

Poverty, exclusion, disadvantaged groups - Statistics also show that an increasing number of people are on the poverty line. These people are disadvantaged the most in applying for employment or having the confidence to take up learning opportunities. These are the very adults in our community whom we must encourage and provide easier, more cohesive and more connected pathways to learning for them to fulfil their learning potential. We need to be proactive about addressing their needs.

Urban versus rural lifestyles - There is an increasing drift to urban and city lifestyles, rather than rural or small towns, as people search for jobs. We are experiencing major changes in family types. There is an increase in the ethnic and the demographic make-up of our community. The nuclear family is no longer the norm, as we look at single parent families, extended families, mixed families, and so on. 

Changes in family types - There is also a move away from the traditional three bedroom, stand alone house on a section. All of these changes provide barriers within our community. We need to lift those barriers and provide the right environment to make change possible, because people need to adapt and change to meet the challenges offered by the 21st century.

Changing methods and patterns of communication - There is no doubt that those who do not understand, use and develop technology within their field are disadvantaged in the global market. Where once we wrote letters now we send e-mails. Where once one telephone in the house was a luxury we now have multiple land lines, computer communication, and use mobiles. We have cable communication, data networks, satellite links, and increasingly technological developments are ahead of its usage. 

Shift from linear to network societies - There is a radical shift from linear based systems to networked systems. 

Digital divide - Those on the wrong side of the digital divide are finding themselves disadvantaged even further.  According to the 2001 census in New Zealand:

  • a growing percentage of students are leaving school without qualifications
  • 27.6% of all New Zealanders, but 43.6% of Maori, do not hold tertiary qualifications
  • 3.7% of all New Zealanders do not have access to a telephone
  • only 37.4% of all New Zealanders have access to Internet
  • a growing number of people are trapped in long-term unemployment

The Learning Divide

Although many people achieve high levels of competence and qualifications, through school and post compulsory education, there exists a deep learning divide in our society. 

On one side of the divide stand those who have attained qualifications and who carry on with active involvement in learning throughout their lives, both in work and beyond. On the other side stands those who have little in the way of formal qualification and achievement or have not been involved in systematic learning since leaving compulsory education, and declare that they have no wish or plans to do so.

Such a divide is incompatible with a culture of lifelong learning for all. 

Such a divide is incompatible with the Knowledge Economy and a Knowledge Society.

See Also:

South Waikato Lifelong Learning Group

South Waikato Lifelong Learning group

Skills Gap Project
Group Members

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