Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr
"Lifelong learning" has become something of a buzzword in recent years.
According to the politicians it’s one of the "key drivers" for "upskilling the workforce" so they can participate in the new "knowledge economy". Buzz, buzz, and more buzz.…
But behind the rhetoric and weasel words of modern political dialogue there’s a serious message trying to break through. It’s simply this: you’re never too old to learn, and learning can and will enhance your life in all sorts of ways… perhaps not just in the areas you expect.
For some adults the decision to return to learning isn’t an easy one to make. Having been compelled to learn through the formal education system, they decide that learning perhaps isn’t for them. Children have a natural curiosity to explore and absorb the world around them — a catalyst for learning that seems absent in many adults, or if not absent then subconsciously subdued. Returning to education years, perhaps decades after leaving the formal education system can feel awkward, unnatural… perhaps even a little frightening. But legions of adult learners attest to the fact that it’s well worth stepping briefly outside your comfort zone to experience the benefits learning can bring.
The really crucial distinction between learning as an adult and learning in school is that as an adult nobody’s forcing you to sit down and listen to something you have little interest in. You’re there because you want to learn, not because somebody else dictates that you have to — and believe it or not that makes all the difference in the world.
AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, believes there are plenty of reasons why Adult Education is vital to the country, the community, families and individuals. They maintain that people who have an opportunity to continually learn and develop their skills and capacities:
- Make our economy grow and develop
- Ensure that their children develop a love of learning and take full advantage of education
- Actively participate in their own communities and civil society
- Support and respect people with different cultural beliefs and abilities
- Respect and protect the environment for future generations
- Nurture creativity and imagination
- Live healthy and fulfilled lives
There’s another reason that they don’t list, but that’s crucially important: learning new things is fun, whatever your age.