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Posts Tagged ‘lifelong

This commentary used job disruptions brought on by COVID-19 to declare:

Such developments underscore the need for re-training and upskilling: By reminding us that we can thrive amid a generational maelstrom, and even in the same industry, if we embrace lifelong learning.

But I wonder if we, as a country, have actually embraced lifelong learning.

The author mentioned UNESCO Education Commission’s four pillars of education and highlighted one of them: Learning to know. The other three are learning to be, learning to do, and learning to live together.

If these are crucial elements in an updated concept of lifelong learning, I wonder if we have embraced all those pillars. Let’s just take the highlighted one of learning to know.

In the context of reskilling, knowing something new is not the same of doing something new. That said, I have no doubt that many have learnt “to do” to survive the pandemic. But is this lifelong learning? Might the disruption have forced emergency learning or a circumstance-based learning?

I also found the headline (“finally embracing lifelong learning”) to contrast with the content. For example:

… researchers at the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) have found a relatively sharp decline in engagement with technologies for learning among those between the ages of 40 and 70 years

If the low take-up of SkillsFuture courses is an indication of “lifelong learning”, then this is not good news. The author cited a guest speaker who indicated that:

…the lack of recognition for Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) by businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, would prevent working adults from taking up SkillsFuture courses.

Later in the commentary, the author described how someone who dealt more with “head” work would find “hand” work demeaning. This might also contribute to low SkillsFuture take-up.

Only the last several sentences in the article were congruous with the headline. They highlighted how people signed up for upskilling and employment programmes during the current pandemic. So I have ask: Have we really embraced lifelong learning when what we have is just a year-long snapshot?

Last Saturday I sacrificed some family time to attend a welcome briefing for adjunct faculty of a local university. Yes, I am associating with another institute of higher education by offering a new course in a Masters programme.

I took quite a few notes at the meeting, but I was most struck by the profound simplicity of a statement by the university’s president. In describing the university’s mission to be an institute of lifelong learning, he said that it was “not about delivering content, but about attitude and aptitude” instead.

I could not agree more and was reminded of an image quote that I made in 2016:

Don't say

Lifelong learning stems less from engagement and more from empowerment; less from being given answers and more from asking critical questions; less from solving old problems and more from seeking new ones.

It takes a lifetime to keep learning how to do these things. And because this takes so long, it outlives standards and tests for content. To keep going for so long, attitudes towards what learning is and what evidence of learning looks like must change.

If attitudes do not change, we pay lip service to what lifelong learning is. We teach, perhaps even passionately, without realising that students have not changed. We test, perhaps rigorously, without realising that students have not learnt.

It is not lost on me that the profoundly simple (and simply profound) statement is easy to say, but not easy to implement. Words are only as strong as a plan, a plan is only as strong as a policy, and a policy is only as strong as its implementation.

I am going to do my part in embodying the attitudes and actions of a lifelong learner as I lead other learners. I hope that the obstacles that I will face in this new journey are the natural ones and not artificial ones placed there by lip service.

I love watching the YouTube videos from Great Big Story. That channel finds amazing and inspiring stories from all over the globe and distills them into just a few minutes.

This video is a collection of four stories. The first two personify lifelong learning in ways that no academic, policymaker, or school leader can describe.

Video source

The first story is of an 80-year-old woman who started weightlifting at age 70. The second is about a 69-year-old Nepalese man who is in the equivalent of tenth grade high school.

No words I might write do them justice. Watch and be inspired!

Sir Ken Robinson tweeted this recently.

He urged his Twitter followers and others who stumbled on his tweet to discuss this statement: Most of what kids currently learn at school will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40.

There are so many ways to approach this statement.

One might be to point out that if schools still operate as dispensers of content, they are bound to be irrelevant.

Such content does not have to just be useless for work or life after 40 years. It can also be irrelevant immediately if it is not meaningful to the learner right there and then. Content does not need 40 years to be irrelevant; it can take just 40 seconds.

Schooling and education should also be about changing thinking, values, attitudes, and behaviours. All these take an extended period to happen, and they might retain their currency for much longer too.

However, such qualities might still lose relevance in the future. For example, cultures that value unquestioned compliance are not likely to nurture critical or creative thinkers. If you are taught more to listen and obey than to talk and take action, then you will tend to do just that.

All this is just opinion. The premise of the article that sparked SKR’s “discuss” seemed to be that algorithms and artificial intelligence threaten to take jobs and create a “useless class” in the future.

The article outlined how the processing of information and content, quick and focused algorithmic thinking, and slow-responding schools might contribute to an unemployable group of people.

One part of the article focused on the role of schooling and education:

Since we do not know how the job market would look in 2030 or 2040, today we have no idea what to teach our kids. Most of what they currently learn at school will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40. Traditionally, life has been divided into two main parts: a period of learning, followed by a period of working. Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Many, if not most, humans may be unable to do so.

Industrialised and modern countries might have policies in place to promote “lifelong learning”. For example, Singapore has SkillsFuture.

Aside from some teething problems and unsavoury practices, the effort seems like a stop-gap measure. It deals with the symptoms (like retrenchment, unemployment, growing irrelevance) instead of underlying issues (changing expectations, more fluid and connected work, managing information).

If current workers were schooled to think and operate narrowly, they are unlikely to see the need for continuous and constant learning. Their mindsets might read like this: I am done with school, why force me to go back?

Values are more CAUGHT than they are TAUGHT.

To avoid the problem of being irrelevant at 40, all learners, young and old, need to learn and practice what some might call a growth mindset. Some of this might be taught, the rest — I would wager a large part — is caught.

So schools need teachers as models of such a mindset. But here is the Catch-22: Are schools the best place to find such models?

Not many people know that I was a Biology student and teacher. I almost got a Ph.D. in Zoology instead of Instructional Systems Technology.

Like most zoologists, I was, and still am, in awe of Sir David Attenborough (SDA). He is a naturalist and broadcaster who is well known for his books and TV series. His latest venture is Planet Earth II.

Video source

SDA is 90-years-old, but he still considers himself a learner. In a Vsauce interview, he was asked if he had any advice for communicators of science they might reach large audiences and enact change. He replied that he did not have any advice because he was still learning and struggling.

Video source

SDA added that any advice he might dispense was outdated as it would be “about yesterday’s technology or yesterday’s way of doing things”. The segment of the interview that dealt with that Q&A is here.

SDA is not only insightful, he is model of lifelong and lifewide learning. He focuses on the today and tomorrow, not on the hangups of yesterday. He is an example that educators young and old can follow.

Don't say

Earlier this week I mentioned to two people that I think that “lifelong learning” is often misused.

What some people mean by that phrase is actually continuous training (which is linked to compliance) and skills upgrading (which is linked to productivity). Both of these are more like schooling.

If we are honest about it, we do not learn very much from school. Try to remember what you learnt in school or what you really use now that you picked up from school. Not much.

You learnt much more outside of the confines of school or school-like environments. If we are to truly learn over a lifetime, it is to self-actualise and to educate ourselves. It is not to be schooled.

School did not teach me to state and share the CC photo with which I created this image quote. I learnt about CC after graduate school and taught myself to do this.

An article in THE said that universities should dispel the illusion that PhDs have jobs for life.

Why do PhDs need to be told this?

Nowadays does anyone really expect to start and end with just one job?

There is no more iron rice bowl.

There are only opportunities that you find, niches that you carve, or doors that you open. All these happen only if you are prepared to keep on learning.

Kirk Douglas, best known as an actor (Spartacus anyone?), not so well known as a blogger.

But a blogger he is and at the age of 92! This Reuters article reports that he started blogging in 2007.

Now that’s a lifelong learner!

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