March 20, 2019

Learning for life

Annica Moore and Kiira Noponen

Finnish National Agency for Education

These days, many young people are disengaged from education and exist outside working life. Furthermore, older people can find it hard to re-enter the job market, which has already significantly changed. Uncertainty about work and income can cause let-downs and disappointment at any moment in life. How can we strengthen the ability of young people, immigrants and the unemployed to find interesting educational opportunities amidst the rise of inequality?

One significant way of doing this is to shift to a lifelong learning approach.

Continuous learning is, in effect, a new name for lifelong learning. At the current societal juncture, we all have to continuously invest in our own skills and keep ourselves up to date. A recent Finnish government report on the future emphasised continuous learning in education and the need for an able lifelong learning model that covers the whole population.

The most important idea driving the reform of continuous learning and its models is an emphasis on the learner – all of us. How do we enable and support the development of lifelong learning of individuals and help them to navigate ever-changing labour markets? In the background, the issues of future work and the transformation of professions and tasks due to digitalisation are also present. These translate to the disappearance of certain occupations and changes in the substantive content of professions, as well as the emergence of completely new professions.

It is becoming harder to predict which skills will be in demand in the future. Fewer and fewer degrees will be able to equip people for a specific job for the rest of their lives. We all will have to acquire new skills throughout our lives in new and more flexible ways.

Fewer and fewer degrees will be able to equip people for a specific job for the rest of their lives.

It is against this backdrop that the Finnish National Agency for Education is searching for and testing new individual solutions for a lifelong learner’s path.

One solution to this problem is harnessing digital services to map out and develop one’s own skills and competencies through education. Here a learner could construct a personal and continuously evolving competence profile, and receive recommendations of suitable learning opportunities with the help of learning analytics and algorithms. These would then present the learner suggestions through educational data and interests.

The learner could thus develop their existing skills and grasp a clearer picture of their educational path, also relating to labour market needs. In other words, learners could constantly update their learning profile during different phases of their life.

The crucial thing is that learning would always travel with the learner – for a lifetime.


Photo: Outi Kivipelto

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