Learning for life, for work, and for its own sake: the value (and values) of lifelong learning

  • Author: Stephen Roche (Executive Editor)

  • 14 September 2017

Volume 63, Issue 5, pp 623–629


The value of lifelong learning is inseparable from its values. It is about more than diversifying the loci and modi of learning, more than expanding access and opportunity, more indeed than transferring primary agency from the educator to the learner. Its value is nothing less than the inspiration for a new idea of human society.

In the last two decades, something remarkable has occurred in relation to lifelong learning; as a concept, it has been almost universally embraced. When the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Bank and European Union all vigorously endorse lifelong learning, its long-standing champions are apt to feel both satisfaction and disquiet. The recent ascendance of lifelong learning is reminiscent of the way in which another concept – sustainable development – which similarly began as a radical proposal, has been adopted, co-opted and diluted of meaning. But every new movement begins with an idea. Lifelong learning, like sustainable development, is a notional germ from which a different kind of society may sprout; one that values learning both for its uses and its own sake and that likewise values people both for what they do and who they are. Such a “learning society” is not as distant or utopian a vision as it might at first seem. Its inception requires that we re-examine how and why we learn, and then harness our creativity to design systems of learning that enrich all aspects of our lives. […]

All six articles in this issue touch on the underlying values of lifelong learning and demonstrate its value to society. They consider the necessity of holistically combining formal and non-formal in the reform of the education and training system of Benin; the integration of lifelong learning within a broader National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in Ghana; teaching quality at a training academy in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq; university-incubated student spin-off companies in north-eastern Brazil; popular universities in Spain and France; and the value of literacy as expressed by adults who learned to read and write in their native language in Africa.

Click here to read the entire introduction


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