Lifelong learning – a critical appraisal
Lifelong learning is one facet of life which should never be abandoned by anyone. Several people go to school and terminate their studies after they leave, others have a dabble at High School while a growing number turn to College to get their degree but there is still a large chunk of people who just could not care less and leave it at that. In countries such as the UK (Forrester, Payne and Ward 1999), there is a considerable push to develop Employee Development schemes as that is seen as a win situation for all concerned.
These schemes may come in different methods but one may highlight job related learning, job related training and a combination of both. They obviously provide learning opportunities for a large number of groups within the current labour force market which has obviously changed substantially over the past decades. There is also the need to provide a
singular policy direction in this regard although the complex division of labour which is present in today’s society has also to be taken into account.
Man’s thirst for knowledge is substantial and at any point in life, one gets the urge to know more. So lifelong learning is indeed an important facet of human development and a logical stage which can continue right up to death (Foley 1999). Obviously some jobs have the concept of lifelong learning ingrained in them, one can point out the medical profession and the law profession as two typical examples where this concept has to be applied.
It has to be understood that education does not exist in a vacuum and there are several social mores which one must tackle before coming to grips with the process. In Malta for example there is a large and thriving University of the Third Age where several elderly persons take courses ranging from simple housekeeping and DIY themes to the most advanced of degrees. Some even manage to graduate with full honours and with first class degrees when they are in their mid 70’s – this definitely demonstrates the power of lifelong learning (University of the Third Age 2010).
The University of the Third Age was actually founded in 1993 by the Department of Gerontology within the University of Malta. This shows a pro-active approach on the subject of lifelong learning by the local university authorities and as stated beforehand, the branch has produced a large number of graduates who can continue to give substantial contributions to the social fabric of the country.
Conceptions of Lifelong Learning
Learning opportunities should be available to all citizens on an ongoing basis and this is essential in a properly organized and democratic society. As demonstrated by Forrester, Payne and Ward (1999), the rapidly changing workplace is creating situations where lifelong learning has become an absolute necessity to survive in today’s environment. These opportunities can come in several forms which include the restructuring of the global economy where more varied work can become available at a moment’s notice. Challenges may also be turned into opportunities by the proper application of lifelong learning methods which obviously need to introduced without delay as most of the workforce loses its basic skills, largely through the enforcing of economic capitalism (Belanger 1999).
Finally lifelong learning should be about increasing the life chances of those who perhaps did not have such a good start in life (Dewey 1966). This situation could prove to increase possibilities and opportunites for a previously marginalized section of society and thus is highly commendable on all counts. According to Foley (1966), over the past decade there has been a developing interest in workplace change primarily brought about by the desire to make enterprise and economy much more productive. This obviously brings about the stimulus for more lifelong learning to update worker opportunities.
Discussion on vocations and working lives
According to Dewey (1966), there is a philosophical conflict between what vocational aspects of education are best applied to today’s day and age. One can argue that occupation is a concrete term for artistic continuity although there are also other factors which come into the equation such as artistic capacity, scientific ability and effective citizenship (Dewey 1966) There is always a fine line to be drawn between the vocational aspect of life and work where more often than not, we find these intertwined together. A typical example would be the nursing profession where the job is actually seen as a vocation and it is rightly described as being so. Vocational work can also be immensely satisfying albeit stressful too. Domestic chores can also be seen as a vocation although this is sometimes underappreciated. However the main theme of vocational work is to provide a humane service to others so up to a point, all sort of work can be termed as vocational although non-profit organizations focus more on that aspect.
Naturally its is important to consider the constant interplay between vocational and normal work as these often mix together. Teaching is another profession which can definitely be called vocational. Every aspect of teaching, from the primary beginnings and kindergarten to University lecturing is vocational as the teacher is imparting his/her knowledge for the good of others. Naturally, and crucially, it is always important for those teachers who have changing classes to update themselves constantly with what is going on around them. Only then can the proper vocational aspect of teaching be fulfilled and be properly applied. Amongst the factors which influence the participation in vocational education and lifelong learning which is non mandatory, one finds the incipient threat of unemployment (Bagnall 2011). This ever present spectre continues to create situations where those who have no real access to proper education should begin to review their situation accordingly as the following case study demonstrates.
Consider this case: A factory worker is facing the threat of being laid off and has been working at the same establishment since the age of 15 with only a basic education (Belanger 1999). This obviously results in his life chances being substantially diminished if he loses his job and with a family of five to support, the situation turns even more drastic.
The possibility of taking up classes in the evening to improve skills is there for the taking and before the eventual layoff is experienced, the man has a solid educational formation under his belt enabling him to apply for a number of jobs which might even bring some success (Foley 1999). Obviously, if the man remained passive and let events overtake him, his situation would have been much worse and he would obviously have faced a substantial period of
unemployment without much possibility of finding another job. Belanger (1999) states that former passive work policies are being questioned and gradually replaced by much more active policies and this is also true when considering health and environmental policies. So through such aspiration, the demand for continuing education is a factor which will be an interesting focal point for discussion as the workplace becomes ever more deterministic and which reacts to social change.
Finally, the man in question can apply for different levels of jobs which provide much better job satisfaction for all. Thus the concept of lifelong learning turns full circle and the whole gamut of opportunities runs through indicating that this is surely one of the best reasons for the concept to be applied in today’s day and age (Belanger 1999). Belanger also argues that lifelong learning will eventually become an important tool in the macro economic process which should eventually see a drastic revision of work practices across the globe. When one observes all this, it is also rather obvious that any career change does not only depend exclusively on a good education or a lifelong one but the element of luck and connections must also be taken into account.
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Dewey J (1966). Vocational aspects of education in Democracy and Education; The Free Press
Bagnall R (2011). Lifelong learning and the limitations of economic determinism
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Belanger P (1999). Adult learning and the transformation of work in M Singh (ed) Adult
learning and the Future of Work Hamburg UNESCO Instutute of Education pp 19-28
University of The Third Age Malta (2010). http://www.um.edu.mt/eurgeront/u3e
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