The Journey From Education To Learning

Education is undergoing significant change just like every other area of society as greater emphasis is put on lifelong learning. But what does it mean for students?

Lifelong learning

The shift to lifelong learning reflects the fact that education is no longer seen as only for the young. Since its compulsory establishment in schools education has focussed on preparing children and young people for the workplace. Some efforts were also made to promote adult education and further education to encourage a process of continuous learning from birth to death. And given the rapidly aging profile of society there is a mounting need for education in later years, not least to remain physically active and mentally alert.

Education was historically delivered as a face-to-face encounter between teacher and student but evolved with greater insight into different learning styles. Before the internet the Open University offered distant learning programmes through courses, television and radio. Such service is now available from an endless variety of public and private organisations. The changes, however, highlight the move from a standard method where knowledge was passed through the generations to a system that favours continuous learning. Such an approach provides greater access and ensures the provision of education to a wide audience, rather than restrict its offer to a privileged elite.

Practical knowledge

The introduction of experiential practice-based learning also triggered new thinking, as businesses sought to provide work-based programmes for employees. The benefit of practical knowledge gained credence, as did the idea different types of knowledge change at different speeds. Technical knowledge, for instance, changes at a much faster pace than religious knowledge. Thus, the importance of lifelong learning rather than time-bound study focussed on a person’s early life. Similarly, there is a shift from a one-truth view of the world to a multi-polar more layered perspective. As part of the shift, teachers are seen as interpreters of knowledge rather than gatekeepers of truth. Not least because when knowledge is seen as truth it is often learned by rote with little time for understanding or reflection. But as the student becomes the focus of attention the role of the teacher shifts from a source of truth to a facilitator of learning.

Education has always reflected society and so change happens in the context of the surrounding environment. Today’s world screams for lifelong learning as a way to compete in a climate of chaos that reinvents itself at internet speed. By contrast, the education system was developed at a time of relative stability although it now requires a new model to serve the more flexible needs of learners. Similarly, individuals and organisations must embrace everyday learning or struggle in a world that never stays the same.

So, a major shift from education to learning is underway as individuals and organisations are forced to embrace lifelong learning as a way to flourish.