In 2012, Crowther wrote “There are few educators who would disagree with the principle that lifelong learning is a good thing but the important questions are about the types of learning that the concept promotes, the life that it encourages us to lead, who benefits from this, and the nature of society that it upholds.” (p. 20/21)
What caught my attention about this quote was the actual depth of it. Many, like me, think of the global concept of “lifelong learning” as simply adults pursuing post-secondary education – and not in the wider context of a “learning society.”
A learning society, is a place-bound concept whereby the concepts of lifelong learning are shaped by the economic and social needs of the particular community.
I was surprised (and delighted) to learn that China “has instituted a countrywide learning-society program designed to maintain and foster a harmonious society” (Chang, 2010).
While we do not have a defined “lifelong learning” policy here in British Columbia that I am aware of, we certainly see the Provincial government providing funding for areas such as the trades which will support plans to capitalize on our areas natural resources – and position us to compete globally.
With regard to teaching, this quote has made me realize that there is more to selecting and pursuing education than simply encouraging individuals to follow personal areas of passion or innate ability.
We must go one step further and think about pursuing and providing education that will also be beneficial in our society – based on the unique needs of the places we chose to reside.
Further, as a larger society (city, province, country) we must consider future needs and develop policies and plans that support formal, nonformal and informal lifelong learning, in the areas of greatest need, so we can provide employment for our grads and compete on a global scale.
It has been said that “the only thing constant, is change.” This I know to be true from my own life experience. As such, educators must strategically position themselves in a forward-thinking manner when it comes to lifelong learning.
My “aha moment” when I read this quote was that there are likely already politicians and educators in Canada who are thinking about and shaping our educational system based on the greater needs of society – or there should be!
While technology and society seem to be developing and innovating at a faster pace than ever, it also seems that the pace of systemic change in the education system here in Canada, particularly in the secondary school sector, are moving at a glacial pace. It is my hope that teachers and adult educators will take it upon themselves to prepare learners for the future concepts that will impact their roles.
One key insight I now have as a result of this quote is that over the years, the term “lifelong education” has morphed in to the term “lifelong learning” as a means to shift the focus to that of the student (learner), as opposed to simply the process of an instructor imparting knowledge to a student.
In the past I have always considered that my role as an instructor was to impart historical and current information (teachings, case studies and best practices) to my students, so that they can then understand and apply the learning concepts and outcomes in a professional environment.
This quote has made me think of learning in a completely different way. Going forward, I will strive to incorporate a future-thinking view in to the lessons I teach.
While it’s important to understand past and current aspects of our areas of study, I now realize that it is just as important to consider what may impact us in the future, and prepare our learners accordingly.
What’s more, I will also pay more attention to the trends and changes in adult education, such as technology and distance education, to ensure I am positioning my personal lifelong learning strategy in a way that will be beneficial to me and my future students.
Merriam, S. & Bierema, L. (2014). Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.