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Breaking Barriers to Life-long Learning

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  In an increasingly uncertain world, the constant is the change. Most ‘gurus’ of the future financial markets have begun to focus on risk-taking in uncertain and unpredictable world ahead. Not only the standards of finance are changing, the world of education is undergoing huge shifts. As demand for post-secondary education continues to increase, traditional providers of higher education—universities and colleges— are unable to respond in ways that fulfill those changing and shifting expectations. The walled campus, the structured class-room, the stand-up teacher—all the features of typical providers of higher education are under seize today.

Learners are not just teenagers; learners are practitioners and middle-aged. Learners are first generation women entering this new world. Learners are motivated to learn, not just to acquire a degree or a certificate. The providers of post-secondary education for such a diverse set of learners have to structure teaching and learning in a different manner.

First and foremost, the approach to teaching has to be anchored in life-long learning perspective. Learning can start anywhere, at any stage of life, and in any aspect of life. This perspective requires development of a curriculum that is meaningful to the set of learners, and is constantly evolving. If learners are changing, the curriculum can not be stagnant.

Engagement with learners, their contexts and communities is essential if such a curriculum is to be provided; engagement outside the ‘walls’ of the college or the university becomes the pre-requisite for such a curriculum development.

Second, the pedagogy of life-learning is beyond teaching. Facilitation for enabling self-learning, collective learning, learning from others’ experiences and from one’s own becomes a core element of teaching process. Engagement with the real world, facilitated with reflective praxis, can be a powerful method.

Therefore, breaking barriers to life-long learning entails overcoming the ‘boundary walls’ of universities and colleges in ways that promote respectful and trusting relationships with the communities. A major collective of 47 American universities has created GigU, a network of such engagements (www.educationdive.com). Similar experiments are taking place in UK, Brasil, South Africa, Malaysia and Canada.

The time to embrace life-long learning framework for higher education is now!

Rajesh Tandon
August 22, 2013                        

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