Academic journal article Review of European Studies

New Dimensions of Understanding of Lifelong Learning from Antiquity to Comenius

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

New Dimensions of Understanding of Lifelong Learning from Antiquity to Comenius

Article excerpt


Modern concept of lifelong learning has two components, namely increasing of employability, which means professional development and active citizenship. The problem is lack of development of personality. Both functions of modern theory of lifelong learning were already known in the history and therefore the concept in the broadest sense is not the idea of contemporaneity. Already in the ancient Greece and Rome, the meaning of education and learning after concluded course of formal schooling was emphasized. Even in the Middle Ages both primary components of lifelong learning were frequently mentioned and demanded. J. A. Comenius was the first one, who directly founded the need for learning during entire life and who also made a kind of concept of such education or learning.

Keywords: lifelong learning, Comenius, personal development, professional development, active citizenship, informal learning, Pampaedia, permanent education, Middle Ages, Ancient Greece

1. Introduction

In the second half of the 20th century and early 21st century, the concept of lifelong learning, that is learning or education that takes place not only in the early years, but throughout the entire lifetime of an individual, spread rapidly and gained in importance. According to this concept, individuals should learn and acquire new knowledge even after the conclusion of their formal education, regardless of their achieved level of education. Therefore, they should be encouraged to acquire and increase their knowledge, skills, and aptitudes even later in their life, in fact, to the end of life (Delors, 1996; Establishing an integrated action programme in the field of lifelong learning: Decision of the European parliament and of the council, 2004; A memorandum on lifelong learning, 2000; Policy brief: Lifelong learning, 2001). This shift from "education" to "learning" perhaps reflects a growing interest in learning, even if it is unorganized and episodic, entirely experiential, and even if it does not take place in the institutions of education. This concept of education became known as the concept of lifelong education and later lifelong learning (Smith, 2001).

When we speak about lifelong learning, we are thinking, as a rule, of the modern notion and perception, and believe that lifelong learning is a contemporary invention. Such a conviction is only partly correct, because particular elements of modern understanding of lifelong learning can be identified in almost every historical period.

In the following sections, we will first analyze the modern understanding and concept of lifelong learning and then identify particular elements or dimensions of lifelong learning in ancient Greece and Rome, in the Middle Ages and in the work of J. A. Comenius, who was one of the first pedagogues in history who systematically elaborated the concept of lifelong learning and also one of the founders of the modern concept of lifelong learning.

2. The Concept of Lifelong Education/Learning

Before the 20th century, neither theorists nor practitioners were very interested in generating a coherent model of adult learning, of how adults acquire new knowledge. The most important issue for them, which depended on social conditions, was primarily: how to educate children and youth and to what level, how to provide them with basic knowledge, etc. To be preoccupied with questions about the acquisition of knowledge and comprehension of adults was an important topic only for singular pedagogues, who also had their own particular agenda (i.e., goals and intentions) concerning these issues. Above all, in relation to the concept that even adults should acquire new knowledge and skills, the emphasis was on individuals who had already been formally educated, which means that the goal was not basic literacy.

In 1994 The European Lifelong Learning Initiative (ELLI) organized its first global conference on lifelong learning in Rome. …

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