At the moment, we split our lives into three stages: education, working life and retirement. However, in today’s tough job market there is a need for people to undertake continual education throughout their careers and hence these stages are becoming more integrated and overlapping. The idea of continual learning is particularly important as many people will not pick the right job first time round. This is demonstrated by the fact that a twenty year old today can expect to make six to seven job changes over the course of a working career (Aslanian and Brickell, 1980). This is partially due to the fact that in our current education system, students are required to choose which subject they would like to specialise in and which career path they wish to pursue at such a young age. Therefore, being willing to learn at any age gives people the opportunity to explore different careers rather than just settling for one they don’t enjoy purely because they studied specifically for it.
One of the main reasons continual education is becoming so important is the increased life expectancy, and therefore increased retirement age of workers. Whilst many older people grew up believing that the knowledge they gained at school or college and being a good, loyal worker would guarantee them employment, these days most young people are aware that they will need a high level of education to secure a good job in the current climate,. Having said this, while young people are generally more educated, as an increasing amount of people go to university, there is still a mind-set whereby education is a means to an end and people are only interested in learning to pass their exams, as opposed to learning and developing new skills. However, due to the changing attitude of employers, in order to be a competitive job applicant, it is important for everyone to be open to learning new ideas and realise that education should not stop when they graduate.
Becoming a lifelong learner does not necessarily mean going back to formal education, but can be easily implemented into everyday life. Whilst getting a master’s degree is an extremely positive way to continue learning, as recognised by the government’s funding for postgraduate loans, there are many cheaper and more accessible ways to develop skills and knowledge. For example, in the ‘tech savvy’ era we live in, there is a wealth of information readily available on the internet, including courses you can do from the comfort of your own home.
There are many benefits of lifelong learning in addition to increasing job prospects and supplementing professional competence. Continual learning and increased knowledge will promote personal growth, allow you to connect with a broader range of people and keep your mind active, which can have many health benefits including reducing the chance of getting Alzheimer’s.
Lifelong learning is an idea which builds on our current education system’s failures, and encourages people to be inquisitive and open-minded regardless of their age. Once our compulsory education has finished, it is up to us to take education and opportunities into our own hands.