Lifelong learning (also called continuous learning) is the voluntary, ongoing pursuit of knowledge, skills, and abilities through various forms of education.
There are many differing definitions of lifelong learning. But most or all of them include these features:
It’s ongoing – learning takes place every day, at every age, indefinitely.
It’s voluntary – the individual chooses to learn (either through pursuing certain skills or through an open/positive mindset towards new experiences).
It’s inclusive of different forms of education – lifelong learning can be achieved through on-the-job training, personal/life experiences, courses, etc.
The concept of lifelong learning is said to have originated from a California school district (Temple City Unified School District, 1993) that said “learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations.”
How is lifelong learning different from formal education?
As mentioned above, lifelong learning is inclusive of different forms of education. Therefore, formal education is a part of lifelong learning. What you learn in school and at university can be very important, especially in terms of gaining qualifications that may help prepare you for a job or career.
That being said, formal education is only one part of learning – and it’s normally towards the very beginning of your continuous learning journey. Knowledge and skills gained outside formal schooling can include:
- Skills passed down from parents, relatives, friends, teachers
- Knowledge gained from personal/life experience
- On-the-job training at your workplace
- Self-motivated pursual of coursework to gain specific skills (or just to learn something/have fun)
- Things read or seen in libraries, museums, clubs, extracurricular activities
- General observations
- Much more!
Why is lifelong learning so important?
Lifelong learning has 2 main beneficiaries: individuals and businesses. Obviously, society as a whole (as well as cultures, communities, and relationships), also benefit indirectly from this. See the ways in which continuous learning benefits individuals and businesses below:
Personal development & sustainability
- The individual has an up-to-date reflection of culture and society – social skills, community, spirituality, culture, etc
- The individual is constantly achieving greater self-discovery and increasing their creative potential
- The individual is acquiring skills that may help with employability and competitiveness in the job market
- The individual is learning to adapt to change, especially in regard to politics, economy, technology, personal/family relationships, etc.
Business development & sustainability
- Companies train the talent they already have, thus “investing” in their employees and saving money overall.
- Companies foster a sense of trust, loyalty, and pride in their workers, which can increase retention, motivation, and efficiency.
- Companies are better prepared to adapt to changes in politics, economy, technology, organizational structure, etc.
- Companies foster an environment of innovation necessary to stay relevant and financially viable.
Get started on your lifelong learning journey! Take the first step by joining The Lean MBA program. It is a 1-year, 100% online program that teaches the 12 functional areas of business administration.
The Lean MBA will help you create a daily routine of 15-30 minute study per day, easing you into the habit of daily learning (a core tenant of lifelong learning).