Lifelong Learning Concepts

South Waikato Lifelong Learning Group > Lifelong Learning > Lifelong Learning Concepts

Background Overview

There is a growing world wide trend to now include all formal, informal, community and employment related learning opportunities under the heading of ‘tertiary’. 

Its purpose is to encourage a love of learning from ‘cradle to grave’. learning for learning’s sake and learning that is controlled by the learner, not by the provider. 

The philosophy is based on the premise that if you put the needs of the learner first, rather than the needs of society or the employer, and encourage learners to learn what they want to learn, then a general attitudinal change to learning will occur. 

The assumption is that this approach will open the learner’s mind to new ideas and perspectives, allowing the needs of society and the employer to re-emerge. 

Therefore, it will be easier for the learner to go on learning and take up specific, focussed and formal educational qualifications. 

That, in turn, may well change the way society and the employer does things now. As a consequence of this development, the emphasis on adult learning has changed. 

We now need to emphasise the difference between what ‘learning’ is and what an ‘education’ is, from the learner’s perspective.

An ‘education’ is based on a formal, structured programme of learning, for a set period of time, where you have to learn before you can do.

Lifelong Learning takes what you can do and allows you to learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn, where you want to learn and shows you how to turn those skills to economic advantage for the rest of your life

Fundamentally learning is about change, whereas “education” implies completion, “learning” is ongoing.

The UNESCO view

The UNESCO Commission for Education, under Jacques Delors, established the "Four Pillars of Learning" together with some of the considerations that need to be addressed in looking at current communities, how they function, and what impact they have on our society. 

  • Learning to Know: which concerns developing ones’ concentration, memory skills and ability to think.
  • Learning to Do: which concerns personal competence in the field of occupational training.
  • Learning to Be: that education should contribute to every person’s complete development - mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation and spirituality.
  • Learning to Live Together: which concentrates on reducing world violence and raising awareness of the similarities and interdependence on all people.

Things that need to be considered within the context of the "Four Pillars" include: 

  • global versus local
  • universal versus the individual
  • traditional versus the modern
  • long term versus short term
  • equality of opportunity 
  • competition
  • expanse of knowledge 
  • spiritual and cultural as well as material

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning operates on many levels. These are generally accepted to be Person, regional and societal.

Personal growth and fulfillment

  • Personal growth
  • Love of learning
  • Knowledge, skills and attitudes
  • Employability
  • Equity

Economic development of districts, regions and nations

  • Innovation
  • Competitiveness
  • Productivity
  • Knowledge Economy
  • Ecological integrity
  • Sustainability

Social development of communities

  • Caring citizenship
  • Quality of life
  • Active participation
  • Cultural richness
  • Inclusion

The Lifelong Learning Vision

Combining dimensions with the concepts behined the the "Four Pillars" and you begin to create a Vision for Lifelong Learning: Lifelong Learning:

  • provides cohesion and connectedness
  • provides inclusiveness
  • stimulates new partnerships
  • changes focus from institutions to learners and learning
  • boosts competitiveness
  • improves quality of life
  • reduces unemployment
  • promotes cultural development
  • reduces barriers
  • reduces inequality

See Also:


South Waikato Lifelong Learning Group

South Waikato Lifelong Learning group


Skills Gap Project
Group Members




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