Now that covid has slowly loosened its stranglehold, we continue to look back and forward simultaneously. Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum believes that ‘the pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine and rest our world.’ One of the ‘reset’ points must certainly be everything to do with education. While the experience with this pandemic has taught us resilience, we must make a concerted effort to regain whatever was lost in the education front. And this brings me to the focus of this article- lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning means investing in people’s capabilities, enabling them to acquire skills, reskill and upskill and supporting them through the various transitions they will face over their life course says the International Labor Organization (ILO), while UNESCO defines it as “all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and/or qualifications for personal, social and/or professional reasons”. The European Commission explains that it is “all general education, vocational education and training, non-formal education and informal learning undertaken throughout life, resulting in an improvement in knowledge, skills, and competences within a personal, civic, social and/or employment-related perspective. It includes the provision of counselling and guidance services”.
Lifelong learning can occur in our homes, schools, and workplaces.
Benefits of life-long Learning
Those who are motivated enough to pursue additional learning have many choices. They can register for one of the many evening courses at UCCI, including its many short courses, pursue another formal academic qualification, work and leisure skills, not for credit courses, professional development, and on-the-job-training, taking on a massive open online course (MOOC), or one of the Great Courses, or independent online learning offered for free by several online universities.
The Great Courses are condensed series of lectures given by professors and other experts in their various fields. The courses cover an enviable breadth of academic areas including economics and finance, fine arts, Mathematics, philosophy and intellectual history, literature and language, science, religion etcetera. I find the Great Courses to be especially useful and they are not too expensive.
The benefits to those who commit to life-long learning are many and enduring. These individuals are more marketable, versatile, and intellectually nimble. They are more able to keep up with trends in their industries, more adaptable to the ever-changing economy and its various demands. Studies in the field of lifelong learning are finding that lifelong learners are healthier, more fulfilled and productive, have sharper minds and a greater sense of purpose and confidence and are better able to take on new opportunities as they engage in new challenges, passions, and career goals.
Off course the benefits are not limited to the individual. Lifelong education helps to build and sustain a country’s social and institutional capital making it more attractive for investment in multiple areas. The more educated the citizenry, the better the society.
And this takes us to the question of who should fund lifelong education. Individuals must themselves be motivated to do as much as they can. We must invest in ourselves as far as we are able to. Our workplaces must also lead the way as many are. Many employees leave their jobs for new ones, as they find they have little or no opportunities to learn and grow in their current roles. Investment in the continuing education of employees is a win-win experience. Employees have up-to-date knowledge which improves their own performance and thus that of the organization. It ensures innovation. With exposure to new knowledge, even seasoned employees can do things differently and better. Innovation is key, continuing education is vital.
Continuing education is the way to cultivate new skills in employees and short courses are key to accomplish this. Microcredentials are viable ways for employees to bring new skills to the table making themselves more valuable as employees while adding value to their organizations. With new knowledge being continuously created in a dynamic, modern world, skills and learning need constant updating. When organizations provide opportunities for continuing education it demonstrates that they value their employees and desire to see them grow professionally as persons. It signals to employees that they can grow in their work environments, and this is likely to make them more engaged and wanting to stay and produce.
Continuing education is for everyone, whether skill or academically inclined. And these two areas are not dichotomous. Both can go together. Continuing education is for helpers and nannies and everyone else. As the director of the CXC Education Volunteer Programme, which offers a second chance at education by engaging the voluntary commitment of over forty-five teachers of some sixteen subjects, done at various levels, I am constantly encouraged by the zeal of many adults who sit and pass CXC subjects and go on to receive a college education.
The recent no age limit for government scholarship recipients is certainly inspired and a step in the right direction. It would be interesting to find out the extent to which older persons are utilizing this opportunity. With longevity rates now up to 90 for women and 85 for men, and with far a more dynamic local and global economy, we must be constantly keeping up to be viable, productive, and current.