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Are Schools Really Teaching Lifelong Learning?

In today’s world, knowledge is constantly being updated. Often, entire approaches and systems are replaced, so we need to create new methods and skills to deal with them.

Those in hiher-skilled jobs need to have a deep conceptual understanding of their specialised areas, and use that knowledge to create new ideas, apply them to new areas, developing new products. They need the critical thinking to integrate and use their new knowledge, rather than recall compartmentalised information and poorly-linked, memorised facts.

Students have to take responsibility for their own continuing learning. At the same time, schools should promote such lifelong learning rather than focus on the acquisition of static knowledge – education is not completed when a student leaves university.

In practice, though, few – if any – educational systems are geared towards broad success in developing students with a proclivity for lifelong learning.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has measured the outcomes of education systems every three years since 2000, involving well over a million 15-year-olds in 60 countries. The PISA results show that too many students are not well-prepared to understand concepts and solve problems.

Experience. The Best Teacher

Our goal must be to develop our students’ ability to adapt to changing requirements and circumstances, so that they can apply knowledge creatively in different circumstances. They must be willing to augment core competencies and move flexibly across areas.

To achieve this goal involves learning not only in schools through formal learning processes, but also through informal methods, which occurs increasingly through social networks. In general, at least three approaches are possible.

The first is to develop work at home that interfaces with and expands what students already do – that is, allow more collaborative projects to search, find and apply information. Learning from each other through face-to-face or online interactions can teach them how to learn on their own and in teams. These are valuable skills often required in the real world, and they can be the basis of adult lifelong learning.

The second approach is to introduce experiential learning in real settings for short periods – maybe during off times, holidays and so on. Experiential learning in areas of interest can foster students’ motivation, one of the most important elements for self-guided lifelong learning.

Such learning would have to be age-and knowledge-appropriate. For those learning towards the health profession, for example, this type of learning and exposure to the workings of healthcare institutions can stimulate and enhance their interest.

Experiential programmes are likely to be critical building blocks of education for the new generations, especially of junior college students and undergraduates. Such programmes are available in science and research – but in too few areas and too few locations for too few students.

Exams For Exams Sake?

A third and key element is the development of assessment systems that reflect the goals of teaching students to ask questions, conduct their own research and follow their interests.

The typical examination system is designed to assess knowledge, and a few are built to assess application of knowledge.

But, at the core, it is still based on knowledge acquisition – and not on what is needed for new century. The exams are evaluative and are given at the end of periods of study. Ultimately, they teach students to be good at taking exams (often by cramming).

Rather, informative assessment tools have to be built to guide the development of lifelong learning. These are on going assessments to ask whether students are learning what they supposed to; whether they are heading in the right direction, and what can be done to help them along.

These methods do not replace current educational approaches but, when properly balanced, they can enhance and promote effective learning. Experiential learning becomes a vehicle for differentiating interest and competency, and thus promotes personalisation in education.

All these are critical to the development of lifelong learning. In turn, they lead to a more productive knowledge economy.

Published on Today (The Way We Learn: A Series), 13 Sep 2013 by K RANGA KRISHNAN
Typed by Bukit Panjang Tuition Class

One Comment

  • Dedicated server

    The multi-cultural nature of Singapore also means that a child must pursue their mother tongue, and this is a main reason behind the popularity of Chinese tuition or Tamil tuition.

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