Why we need to promote lifelong learning skills

Generally speaking, learning can be defined as a process that brings together personal and environmental experiences and influences to acquire, enrich or modify one’s knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, behaviour and world views. According to the UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, “The major concepts and theories of learning include behaviourist theories, cognitive psychology, constructivism, social constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, situated learning theory and community of practice.’’

Life skills-based learning is an approach that involves investigation of concepts and theories as opposed to rote-learning through textbooks. Skills-based learning facilitates exploration and encourages individuals to become solution seekers and puts the individuals at the centre of knowledge acquisition. Examples include John Dewey’s Project-Based Approach, Jean Piaget’s Constructivist Theory, Maria Montessori’s Play Way Approach, J. Krishnamurti’s Questioning Mind Approach.

In this context, some key life skills are dignity of labour, respect for life and nature, curiosity, sense of gratitude, emotional equanimity, emotional intelligence, psychological strength, physical and physiological fitness, social adeptness, intellectual depth, mental sharpness, rigour and discipline. The corresponding manifestations are being able to work with ethical values, doing business keeping sustainability in mind, questioning the cause and effect of events and learning from them and being grateful for and focussing on the resources and circumstances that are in one’s favour rather than focussing on unfavourable factors, as this helps one be balanced about both success and failure.

What is transferable knowledge?

Learning is an organic and lifelong process. Transferable knowledge refers to the experience that individuals, students, experts and professionals gain as a consequence of their social and emotional interactions, educational and professional training, technical know-how and how it can be used for one’s own advancement and for those who may want to follow a similar personal or professional life trajectory.

Transferable knowledge appreciates the usability and importance of transdisciplinary studies and experiences. For example, the learning a toddler acquires from playing a team game in childhood can be applied as an adult in his/her business to enhance performance. Another example is knowledge of school-level geography and political science enhancing the competence of an adult in his/her role as a chief economist. Transferable knowledge approach demands that systematic procedures be followed, data is properly formatted, and documented so that it is accessible for oneself and others.

The UNICEF’s Global Framework on Transferable Skills says, ‘’Children and adolescents today live in a world of challenges and opportunities, including new technologies, changing labour markets, migration, conflict, environmental and political changes. To succeed within this current and future environment, all children and adolescents need access to quality education and learning that develops skills, knowledge, attitudes and values and enables them to become successful life-long learners who can learn, un-learn, and re-learn; find and retain productive work; make wise decisions; and positively engage in their communities.’’

Road ahead

UNICEF reports also state that, by 2030, an estimated 825 million children will leave school without the basic secondary-level skills; that 39% of employees in nine diverse countries (including high-income countries) claim that a leading reason for entry-level vacancies is due in part to a skills shortage and that, across the globe, about 500 million youth are unemployed, underemployed or working insecure jobs, often in the informal sector, and 255 million (21%) youth in the developing world — three quarters of them women — are not in employment, education or training.

The 21st century requires learners to hone learning, literacy and life skills. Hence, there is an urgent need to rethink, remodel, and refine the education and learning systems. To do this, hands-on learning should be mandated in schools, colleges and universities across the globe. Learners should go through compulsory research and skill-based training modules, universities should facilitate sector-specific internships and field work and parents, communities, schools, colleges, training institutes and governments must ensure that young learners get ample opportunities to strengthen their physical, emotional and intellectual faculties within safe settings.

The writer is an educator who practises, promotes and advocates the principles of child-centric holistic education.

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