The concept of lifelong learning originates from Learning to Be, which was published for UNESCO in 1972. Led by French Prime Minister of that time, Edgar Faure investigated the three principles of lifelong learning. First, lifelong learning is life long, that is, from birth till death. Second, lifelong learning is life-wide, that is it encompasses a wide range of learning topics from citizenship to employability to social cohesiveness, for individual selection. Third, lifelong learning is focused on learning, whether formal or informal, rather than education. At any age, individuals can shift from formal to informal learning, in a self-directed manner.

Lifelong learning takes place at home. Watching my nieces and nephews during their early, it is intriguing they learn things intuitively. Eager to be outdoors to explore and play, their fingers acquire motor skills to hold the keys and make sufficient turns to unlock the front gates by themselves.

Lifelong learning exists at our deathbeds. Though observation of the dying, some reminisce past grievances and losses in their earlier lives. This facilitates the dying to come to terms with the end of life.

When we evolve through the ageing process, our bodies lose muscles and metabolism slows. Some of us attempt to hold on to our eternal youth with a cocktail of drugs and aesthetic medicine. Some of us pursue exercise regimes that promise to reverse past damages. Some of us acknowledge our limitations, and embrace our wrinkles and silver hair.

When we encounter new neighbours and colleagues from different locations, we form relationships and perceptions that guide our judgement. By remaining receptive to cultural difference and diversity, we welcome new stimulus that offers new insights to unknown territories.

When public transport breaks down and commuters scramble to seek alternative routes, we adapt to disruption in our daily lives. We fret, then accept, that structures and routines are neither permanent, nor familiar. Neuroplasticity occurs and our brain cells might be rejuvenated and re-organised.

When the latest and newest mobile devices are launched, our minds and bodies devise new ways to make sense of new features that were previously unavailable. Through social media, we learn new ways to work and interact with professionals around the world. As we integrate new technology into our work practices, we adjust our thoughts, emotions and actions, so as to fit into the future of work.

When coping with mistakes, we re-learn our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. As Hillary Clinton declared in her recent concession speech, “I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks—sometimes really painful ones.” Losses can occur at every sphere of our lives. Failures need not crumble us, if we learn to climb back on our feet, and strive to be better world citizens.

Thus, lifelong learning does not come with prescribed curriculum. Learning subjects are selected based on individual motivation and self-fulfillment. Learning is really for active citizenship, social cohesion and personal fulfillment and in which employability takes its right place. We do need lifelong learning that asks questions about the future of humanity and the future of the planet, which are equally as important as employability and corporate profit.

World leader Nelson Mandela nudged us, “Every moment of our life can be the beginning of great things.” Lifelong learning is well and alive, beyond the classroom.


Clinton, H., 2016,

Faure, E. et al.(1972), Learning to Be,Paris: UNESCO.

Jarvis, P. (2007), Policies, Practices and Functions, in Globalisation, Lifelong Learning and the Learning Society: Sociological Perspectives, UK, Routledge, pp. 177 – 194

Jarvis, P. (2007), The Need for the Learning Society and Lifelong Learning, in Lifelong Learning and the Learning Society: Sociological Perspectives, UK, Routledge, pp. 195 – 213.

Stanford University, 2016, last accessed 10 November 2016,