Lifelong learning is a term we hear a lot. But have you thought about what it really means to learn throughout your life?

Lifelong learning seems to be important. For instance:

  • Read any recent article on the characteristics of a successful leader and you will find a love for lifelong learning there somewhere.
  • It is said that most of our jobs 30 years from now have not been invented and that the ability to learn will be one of the top skills of the future workplace.
  • As technology forever changes our lives, the tools we use to learn will dictate how we obtain and use information.
  • Studies show that lifelong learning benefits the mind and body as we age.

Yet, we often view learning as an event and not something we should be engaging in throughout our lifetime.

For example, think about how we structure learning into blocks of education throughout our life. We attend preschool, primary -12, university/college, and perhaps grad school. Many of us believe that once we graduate then we are done. Take a look at workplace learning – we see it as something we use to gain a skill that will benefit our career but not something we have time to do daily.

In other words, we value learning as a means to produce…it is the vehicle to prepare us to make a living and to keep the economy moving. This thinking impacts how we fund education and undervalue the profession of teaching. It also explains why the business communities look at learning as a commodity to gain a more skilled workforce.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone who claimed that reading was just one more thing they had to do. They said there was just too much pressure to be something better and if it didn’t help them in their daily life then why bother?

This is so unfortunate…and sad. You see lifelong learning is so much more than that.

When we embrace learning we become more self-aware of who we are as individuals. It helps us to better understand our communities and our world. It allows us to think differently, to question what is going on around us and ask why. Lifelong learning makes us better people.

Learning should be pleasurable and not feel like something we have to do.  It shouldn’t end when we have achieved the prescribed learning outcomes but trigger more natural curiosity and discovery. We should feel excited to learn and not burdened by the task.

Recently, I read that Singapore has a month-long Lifelong Learning Festival where citizens are encouraged to learn together so they can foster a culture of lifelong learning. In addition, Singaporeans, 25 years and older, are also given $500 credit to take ownership of their skill development and learning. How freaking cool, is that?

Here closer to home in Nova Scotia, we need to rethink our approach to learning. As a province, we don’t value learning. We see it as a requirement and a cost liability. We should adopt learning as something we do as freely as we breathe. We should inspire our children to love learning and not despise it. And it is more than just having a skilled workforce – it is encouraging individuals to take control of their lives and to discover ways they can contribute that they would never have thought of before.

Lifelong learning creates stronger, healthier, enlightened, and empowered individuals and communities.

Think how different it could be if our vision included lifelong learning as a way of life.

It’s my vision. Is it yours?