THREE PERSPECTIVES ON LIFEWIDE
I offer three perspectives that we will be mindful of as we undertake our review.
Looking back over the last 12 years
The origins of Lifewide Education lie in the work of the Surrey Centre for Professional Training and Education at the University of Surrey, one of the Centre’s for Excellence in Teaching and Learning funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Between 2008-11 SCEPTrE developed and applied the idea of lifewide learning and education. This work provides a substantial practical evidence-base on which to develop the concepts.
Inspired by the experience of SCEPTrE’s work and the immortal words of adult educator Eduard Lindeman 'the whole of life is learning therefore education can have no ending', Lifewide Education was founded by the Director as a community interest company in 2011. With the help of numerous volunteers and no external funding we have: 1) established a reputation as an honest advocate and champion for lifewide learning and education, 2) attracted and served a global community of interest with nearly 600 subscribers to our mail list 3) created a HUB hosting a range of free open access resources 4) conducted numerous intellectual explorations of ideas relating to lifewide learning and education and published these through an open access magazine which has been accessed over 20,000 times 5) brought together practitioners in UK universities who are responsible for skills awards to share their practices through a conference and e-book and 6) developed an entirely new way of thinking about learning and practice through the concept of ecologies for learning and practice publishing two books [4,5] in the process and gaining international recognition through Harvard University’s Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) inquiry into learning ecologies (October 2019) At a policy research level, Lifewide Education contributed a vision paper and participated in an EU Foresight Study Workshop ‘Open Education 2030’ aimed at developing a vision of adult learning and education in 2030.
Lifewide learning focuses attention on the holistic development of people - The focus of lifewide learning is on the way individuals develop themselves as whole people through all the affordances (opportunities) they can find or can create within their own lives. Lifewide education refers to the approaches adopted by educational institutions in order to embrace the holistic whole-of life development of individuals. It is as much concerned with the development of attitudes, values, character and creativity as it is with the intellectual development of individuals that is often the traditional focus of secondary and tertiary education.
In UK, the concept and practice of lifewide learning was grown in higher education where they can be related to other policy- driven and practice-based movements for example those relating to – personal development planning (PDP) and e-porfolios, employability, leadership, citizenship, volunteering and social inclusion to name a few. The extent to which Lifewide Education as an organisation has been able to connect to such practitioner movements is questionable.
Looking forwards to 2030
In an attempt to look over the horizon at what learning will be like in the future, the EU commissioned the Joint Research Centre IPTS to undertake a Foresight study in 2009 which was published in 2011. The study aimed to identify, understand and visualise major changes to learning in the future. The process developed a descriptive vision of the future, based on existing trends and drivers, and a normative vision outlining how future learning opportunities should be developed to contribute to social cohesion, socio-economic inclusion and economic growth. Figure 1 summarises the most important components of this vision which might be summarised in these words.
The overall vision is that personalisation, collaboration and informalisation (informal learning) will be at the core of learning in the future. These terms are not new in education and training but they will become the central guiding principle for organising learning and teaching. The central learning paradigm is thus characterised by lifelong and lifewide learning and shaped by the ubiquity of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). At the same time, due to fast advances in technology and structural changes to European labour markets related to demographic change, globalisation and immigration, generic and transversal skills are becoming more important. These skills should help citizens to become lifelong learners who flexibly respond to change, are able to pro-actively develop their competences and thrive in collaborative learning and working environments.
Looking forwards 50 years from now
The children, adolescents and young adults of today who are participating in education (and the other parts of their life) will be the workers and citizens of societies 50 years from now. They will live in a world that is unimaginably different and we argue that the way we educate today will lay the foundations for survival and flourishing in the distant future. In this context lifewide takes on new meaning and relevance. In all societies education is used instrumentally to prepare people for work – to equip them with knowledge and skills so that they are employable both generally and more specifically. But the emphasis is on the short term – entry into the work force. What societies need to be doing now is paying attention to the more distant future – that is the real challenge for tertiary education and why the idea of lifewide learning with its concern for the development of the inner character core of people is so much more relevance now than it did a decade ago. For we have entered the machine age - the age when human beings will compete with machines which will progressively out-perform us; an age where humans as biological machines may well transition to becoming humans that are partly genetically engineered and partly mechanically and electronically engineered.
While nothing is certain about the future there are lots of pointers that indicate that the role currently performed by work will significantly change. Economist, Danial Susskind’s new book ‘A world Without Work’5 paints a vivid picture of a future containing far fewer opportunities for work than the present. In such a social environment people will a) have to be financially supported by their Governments through some sort of universal wage and b) have to be able to find purposes and meaning in their lives that are not related to work (the activity through which most adults in their day to day life currently find purpose and meaning). We argue that the development of an appreciation of how life provides such affordances through a lifewide approach to education would help build a foundation of awareness that will help people sustain themselves in their distant future.
Although we cannot tell how long it will take to arrive at a world with less work for human beings to do, there are clear signs that we are on our way there. The problems of inequality, power and meaning are not lurking in the distance, hidden out of sight in the remote future. They have already begun to unfold, to trouble and test our inherited institutions and traditional ways of life. It is up to us now to respond[10 p238]
One thing is certain about the future – 'nothing is certain', and we know there will be many challenges in the decade ahead. Sustaining our self-funded enterprise with very little resource and voluntary support will always be a challenge but we are bolstered by the belief that our mission to support and advance the principle that 'the whole of life is learning therefore education can have no ending', is a worthwhile cause.
OPEN INVITATION if you would like to join our team of volunteers or you would like to offer your opinions and suggestions on how we can improve what we do please email me – Norman Jackson (Director Lifewide Education) firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Jackson, N. J. (Ed) Learning for a Complex World: A lifewide concept of learning, education and personal development. Authorhouse
2 Lindeman, E. C. (1926a) The Meaning of Adult Education, New York: New Republic. Republished in a new edition in 1989 by The Oklahoma Research Center for Continuing Professional and Higher Education
3 Jackson, N.J and Willis, J. (Eds) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities and Colleges. Lifewide Education available at: http://www.learninglives.co.uk/e-book.htm
4 Jackson, N.J. (2016 & 2019) Exploring Learning Ecologies ChalkMountain: LULU
5 Barnett, R. and Jackson, N.J. (Eds) Ecologies for Learning and Practice: Emerging ideas, sightings and possibilities. Routledge
7 Jackson, N.J. (2013) EU Lifewide Development Award Vision Paper. Contribution to EU Foresight Study Open Education 2030 available at https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/openeducation2030/category/vision-papers/lifelong-learning/
8 Redecker, C., Leis, M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P. Stoyanov, S. and Hoogveld, B. (2011) The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change. European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies EUR 24960 EN Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union http://ipts.jrc.ec.europa.eu/publications/pub.cfm?id=4719
9 Jackson, N.J. (2011) An Imaginative Lifewide Curriculum, in Jackson, N. J. (ed) Learning for a Complex World: A lifewide concept of learning, education and personal development. Authorhouse 100-121.
10 Susskind D, (2020) A World Without Work Allen Lane