Lifelong Learning and Institutions of Higher Education; EDUCATORS SPEAK

Article excerpt

Byline: Dra. Dolores Baja Lasan

THE main thrust of this article is to advocate that Universities should be the nerve center for lifelong learning.

The imperative nature of lifelong learning is analyzed as a necessity in a millennium dominated by a "knowledge economy" (UN Research Institute, 1990) which requires an on-going and continuous renewal and enhancement of knowledge to be pursued by every participating and contributing individual in the 21st century. Insights on how institutions of higher education have taken on lifelong learning as part of their educational thrusts and culture are drawn from experiences of some members of the International Association of Universities and the conceptual framework from the Dearing Report (Sir Ron Dearing, United Kingdom, 1997), specifically provisions and recommendations on lifelong learning in and through higher education. Emphasis is made on the exciting process of infusing institutions of higher education with a lifelong learning culture while maintaining their classical mission and vision and at the same time taking on an innovative stance in order to respond to rapidly evolving and changing needs of a knowledge-based global society.

Some initiatives on lifelong learning

Lifelong learning was the spirit behind the idea of one time Minister of Education and then Prime minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, when he introduced in 1968 the idea of "recurring education" which involved alternating between education and work. Shades of this concept are at the core of what come to be known as Cooperative Education advocated by the World Association for Cooperative Education which described itself as a global alliance of business, education and government to advance and promote work-integrated education.

Alvin Toffler introduced the concept of a "post industrial economy" (The Third Wave, 1970). This signaled something beyond the transformation brought about by the socalled industrial revolution. Knowledge was exploding in various fields of human endeavor affecting the lives of individuals, people, regions, and nations, their ideals and aspirations for the future.

UNESCO, in 1972, came out with "Learning to be" which highlighted the basic concepts of lifelong education, lifelong learning, and the learning society. This report argued that if learning covers the whole life of mankind, (including both the length of time and its various aspects), as well as the whole of society, (including both its educational resources as well as its social and economic resources), then, it further argued, in addition to the modification needed to educational systems, we should strive to reach an ideal state of the learning society. A learning society is one which engages its people into enhancing what purportedly it has learned, a commitment to discover new avenues to use knowledge and to build a body of empirical knowledge from direct and indirect experiences.

OECD came out with its own report in 1973 on "Recurring Education: The Strategy of Lifelong Learning" which justified the need for adults to return to learning whenever possible. "Return to learning" though a shade off lifelong learning further justified the importance of lifelong learning with elements of continuity and individual voluntariness. …