The fifth chapter taken from the Academic Success Formula is written by Gavin Hopper, an experienced international educational marketing professional. Throughout the chapter, Gavin discusses the importance of lifelong learning and how it’s so much more than enduring education just to pass exams. He looks in-depth at why learning new ideas and gaining understanding of new topics and concepts throughout life is so beneficial, as well as how learning for life skills are acquired.
What is Learning for life?
- A lifelong learning perspective is more than training and continuing education: it forces us to rethink and reinvent our schools and universities.
- Learning for life should benefit the community and the environment.
Learning for life is much more than learning just to pass exams, make your parents proud or keep employers happy. It’s about continuing with the learning process throughout your entire life in order to pursue your own personal and professional development while simultaneously becoming better-rounded citizens. The idea that learning is just for kids is redundant and as parents, teachers and mentors, it’s up to us to set an example for the continuous learning process that is life.
A great quote to summarise the definition of Learning for Life comes from Albert Einstein. “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” This summarises how learning is so much more than academics, textbooks and exams but instead about the everyday skills we acquire throughout our life, otherwise known as ‘wisdom.’ This includes communication and listening to others, which are required to be a productive member of society.
Believing in Learning for Life
Nick Founder a lawyer from Melbourne, Australia believes that ‘Learning for Life’ is an experience that involves learning from a number of different sources. For example, throughout his own life he has learned cultural transitions from his Greek and Chinese family, has knowledge of economics and law through schooling, as well as advanced negotiation and problem-solving skills acquired through interaction with managers in different workplaces. Even though these are important to his everyday life, Nick still believes that the greatest skills he has learned are writing, communication and being able to collaborate with others, as they allow him to function more effectively and continue with his learning process.
As Nick shows, learning for life is an ongoing yet varied process with no specific end goal. It involves a mixture of academic knowledge, life skills and more. To better illustrate the different types of learning involved, the Lifelong Learning Council of Queensland describes four “pillars” of learning for life.
Learning to know
Mastering learning tools rather than acquiring structured knowledge.
Learning to do
Equipping people for the types of work needed now including innovation and adaptation of learning to future work environments.
Learning to live together, and with others
Peacefully resolving conflict, discovering other people and cultures, fostering community capability, individual competence and capacity, economic resilience, and social inclusion.
Learning to be
Education contributing to a person’s complete development: mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation, and spirituality.
How are learning for life skills acquired?
We never stop learning. In fact, Learning for Life skills are acquired in many different ways throughout life. Different circumstances, situations and scenarios are what ultimately allow us to develop new ideas, get inspired and encourage growth. Here are a few:
Education: Formal structured education such as primary and secondary school, college and university.
Working: On the job training and experience as an employee or through owning a business is where many transferable skills are learnt. In fact, the list of learning benefits from the workplace is endless: being able to think positively, regularly set goals, develop administrative skills, paying attention to detail, thinking analytically, and knowing how to conduct proper research.
Learning through others: Learning through a mentor, whether they’re a friend, family member, colleague, business associate or a professional.
Travel: When we travel outside of our everyday familiar environment we are forced to adapt to new surroundings, people and learn from new experiences.
Reading: Reading an academic text, non-fiction or fiction book is one of the best aids in life learning.
Researching online: Online resources are such a great learning tool. From conducting your own research to reading articles or watching YouTube videos, there’s enough information out there to last a lifetime.
Social: We can learn a lot from our peers and loved ones in a social environment. In fact, when we spend time with others, we develop self-awareness, learn how to deal with different social situations, become more tolerant towards others and in general are more forgiving, respectful and understanding.
Essential Life Skills
Learning for life generally involves acquiring essential life skills and lots of them. Gerhard Fischer discusses two essential skills sets that will likely be at the top of job requirements for 21st century work. The first being able to quickly acquire and apply new knowledge, the second is being able to showcase executive skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, as well as be able use technology efficiently. It’s also important to realise that Learning for Life also involves developing psychological skills, which are needed to manage relationships, whether they’re personal, academic, parental or professional. When we have this life experience, we’re even able to cope better with stress, loss of a loved one, health and financial issues.
Often learning is seen as a rigid structure that is completed to achieve a specific result or outcome. Instead, we should be encouraging a new, more effective path of learning. Minister for Singapore Education, Heng Swee Keat has even argued against the ‘study book’ culture, where success is measured by academic grades, putting emphasis on the importance of self-directed learning and acquiring skills such as creativity, inventiveness and adaptability. He cautioned against churning out students who may be great at taking exams but aren’t equipped to take on jobs in future. Instead, communication skills, reasoning and teamwork are absolutely essential. Regardless of the avenue they come from, the focus is that you’re always learning.
As individuals it’s important to remember that we all have unlimited potential. However, without continuous learning it can be difficult to unlock all the possibilities. In fact, not embracing Learning for Life could affect many aspects of your life such as economic growth and progress in employment and business. Instead, we must approach the world with a determined curiosity, not just looking for answers but asking new questions. It’s imperative that we’re always looking for ways to evolve and improve, as well as taking the time for self-reflection, learning from our mistakes and being accountable for our actions. As Confucius quotes: “He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” After all, Learning for Life is about learning for your own life and not someone else’s. The future is yours to make of it what you desire, what will bring you joy and personal fulfilment- the ongoing journey of learning helps along the way.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi.