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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.

University of the Philippines Open University.

Module 1
Lifelong Learning and Related Concepts


After working on this module, you should be able to:

1. Define lifelong learning;
2. Describe the development of lifelong learning in policy discourse; and
3. Differentiate lifelong learning from related concepts.

1.0 What is Lifelong Learning?

Lifelong learning is learning across the lifespan, or throughout the

life cycle—i.e. from birth to death or ‘from the cradle to the grave’.

More precisely, lifelong learning is “the continuation of conscious learning

throughout the lifespan” (OECD, 1996, in Field, 2006, p. 17). According to
Knapper and Cropley (2000, p. 1), it is based on the idea “that deliberate
learning can and should occur throughout each person’s lifetime.”

This definition invites us to re-examine conventional notions of learning

and education, in particular notions about when, where, and how learning
and education take place. Before the concept of lifelong learning became
prominent in 21st century educational discourse, learning and education
were thought of as formalized activities that take place in schools or
educational institutions. In other words, learning and education were
identified with schooling, which was a process that was commonly
understood to take place from childhood until late adolescence or early
adulthood. Beyond or post school was work and adult life.

In contrast, “‘[l]ifelong Learning’…cuts across this school and post-school

distinction to suggest a learning process which spans the whole of one’s
life” (Field and Leicester, 2000, p. xvi). It “incl udes people of all ages
learning in a variety of contexts—in educational in stitutions, at work, at
home and through leisure activities” (Schuller and Watson, 2009, p. 2).

Ahmed (2009, p. 7) refers to ‘lifelong learning’ as“a more holistic

perspective on the role of education in the life-cycle of an individual.” First, it
“affirms that learning is continuous and plays a critical role in enabling
individuals to adapt to and deal with new challenges and changes in their
lives and their surrounding environment”. Second, it “embrac[es] all forms of
educational and learning experiences…[that] help prepare individuals to
engage in purposeful interaction with their own environment by developing

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

their knowledge, skills and their critical thinking abilities”. Thus,

lifelong learning is also ‘lifewide learning’:

While the former [lifelong learning] emphasizes the

continuity of learning through the human life-cycle, the
latter [lifewide learning] recognizes that people find it
necessary to engage in multiple learning activities
simultaneously through different modalities of learning and
in varying settings. (Ahmed, 2009, p. 7)

2.0 History of the Concept of Lifelong Learning

The idea that learning takes place throughout human life is not new.
According to Knapper and Cropley (2000), the concept was emphasized
by early European educational theorists like the Norwegian Comenius
and the Englishman Matthew Arnold, and contemporary ideas about
lifelong education emerged after the Second World War.

In the 1970s lifelong education was the focus of a number of

conferences and publications, and was advocated by politicians,
industrialists, and educators. A particularly influential publication was
the 1972 UNESCO1 document titled Learning To Be: The World of
Education Today and Tomorrow written by a commission led by Edward
Faure. Also known as the Faure Report, Learning To Be proposed
“lifelong education as the master concept for educational policies in the
years to come for both developed and developing countries” (Faure, et
al., 1972) based on the premise that it is every individual’s “right and
necessity…to learn for his/her social, economic, political and cultural
development” (Medel-Añonuevo et al., 2001, p. 2). The Faure Report
states the following key ideas of lifelong education (pp. 181-182):

Every individual must be in a position to keep learning

throughout his life. The idea of lifelong education is the
keystone of the learning society. The lifelong concept covers
all aspects of education, embracing everything in it, with the
whole being more than the sum of its parts. There is no such
thing as a separate “permanent” part of education which is
not lifelong. In other words, lifelong education is not an
educational system but the principle in which the over-all
organization of a system is founded, and which accordingly
underlies the development of each of its component parts.

1 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

In 1973, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

(OECD) came out with its own report titled Recurrent Education: A Strategy
for Lifelong Learning. The report proposed ‘recurrent education’ as a system
by which individuals shall alternate full-time work with full-time study (Maehl,
2002). The Council of Europe at this time also presented the
related concept of ‘permanent education’ educationé( permanente) as
“a plan to reshape European education for the whole life span” (Maehl,

Interest in lifelong learning again flared up among policymakers in the

1990s with the publication of key documents on the subject by UNESCO,
the OECD, and the European Commission. In 1996, UNESCO released the
Delors Report titled Learning: The Treasure Within which asserts that:

A key to the twenty-first century, learning throughout life will

be essential, for adapting to the evolving requirements of
the labour market and for better mastery of the changing
timeframes and rhythms of individual existence.

The Delors Report explicitly refers to the shift from the term ‘lifelong
education’ to ‘lifelong learning’ in order “to reconcile three forces:
competition, which provides incentives; co-operation, which gives
strength; and solidarity, which unites” (Delors et al., p. 18). The Delors
Report, which builds on the Faure Report, enumerates four pillars of
education, namely, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live
together, and learning to be (discussed in Module 3).

The year 1996 was also declared the European Year of Lifelong
Learning (EYLL), in response to a 1993 European Union (EU) paper
titled Growth, Competitiveness, Employment which argued for “lifelong
learning for the mass of the population” as “a formative element in the
international economy” (Watson and Taylor, 1998, p. 21).

Also in 1996 the OECD convened a meeting of education ministers to

discuss the theme ‘Lifelong Learning for All’. Themeeting advocated
lifelong learning as a response to economic globalization and rapid
advances in science and technology. It also emphasized that lifelong
learning should be taken to include not just formal learning but also
informal learning at work, which occurs “by talking to others, by watching
television and playing games, and through virtually every other form of
human activity” (OECD, 1996, quoted in Field, 2006, p. 17)

This brief history mentions only some key events in the lifelong learning
policy discourse. The context(s) of these events and the models of
lifelong learning that emerged from them are discussed in Module 2.

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

3.0 Concepts Related to Lifelong Learning

At this point, it might be useful to distinguish between lifelong learning and

lifelong education. According to Knapper and Cropley (2000, p. 6), “lifelong
education is a set of organizational, financial and didactic principles
established with the aim of fostering lifelong learning. Lifelong education is
the system and lifelong learning is the content, the goal and the result.”

Activity 1-1

Read “Concept-characteristics of lifelong education” on pages 9-30

of Dave’s Lifelong Education and School Curriculum published by
the UNESCO Institute for Education in 1973 and available online at

After reading the chapter, reflect on this question:

• Which of the concept-characteristics of lifelong education discussed
did you find particularly interesting or remarkable? Why?

Lifelong learning is part of a “family of concepts” that includes adult

education, recurrent education, and continuing education (Edwards,
in Field and Leicester, 2000, p. 4).

Lifelong learning encompasses early childhood education as well as

adult education or post-compulsory education (i.e. education beyond
legally mandated basic education levels). However, it is a concept that
tends to be more closely associated with “adult learning, and… adults
returning [to school] to learn” or “adults returning to organized learning
rather than…the initial period of education or…incidental learning
(Schuller and Watson, 2009, p. 2).

As mentioned in the preceding section, recurrent education was

a strategy proposed by the OECD in 1973 for enabling individuals
to alternate work and study, which may full-time or part-time.

Continuing education is defined by the Accrediting Commission of the

Continuing Council of the United States as:

the further development of human abilities after entrance into

employment or voluntary activities. It includes in-service,
upgrading and updating education. It may be occupational
education or training which furthers careers or personal

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

development. Continuing education includes that study

made necessary by advances in knowledge. It excludes
most general education and training for job entry.
Continuing education is concerned primarily with broad
personal and professional development. It includes
leadership training and the improvement of the ability to
manage personal, financial, material and human resources.
Most of the subject matter is at the professional, technical
and leadership training levels or equivalent. (quoted in
Jarvis, 2004, p. 50; emphasis in original)

Also associated with lifelong learning is the concept of second chance

education, which refers to a second opportunity to undertake formal
studies (at whatever level) for those who missed out on or dropped out
of school.

Open learning and distance education are likewise related to lifelong

learning in the sense that both open learning and distance education
enable learners to combine study with work and family responsibilities,
and thus learn throughout life. In distance education (aka ‘distributed
learning’ or ‘distance learning’), learners and teachers are geographically
separated and they communicate through electronic and/or print media.
Open learning refers to flexible educational arrangements, such as open
admissions, and freedom to select what, when and were to learn.
(UNESCO, 2003)

Lifelong learning is also linked with the idea of a ‘learning society’, which is
“society which will …be so organized as to provi de (maximum) learning
opportunities for each of its members, and also so as to value a broad
range of that learning” (Field and Leicester, 2000, p. xvii). More concrete
representations of learning societies are ‘learningtowns’, ‘learning cities’,
and ‘learning communities’. The latter term, whichencompasses the other
two, is defined by the European Lifelong Learning Initiative thus:

A Learning Community is a City, Town, or Region which

mobilizes all its resources in every sector to develop and
enrich all of its human potential for the fostering of personal
growth, the maintenance of social cohesion, and the
creation of prosperity. (quoted in Jarvis, 2004, p. 22)

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

Activity 1-2

Think about the following:

1. Is Philippine society a learning society? If yes, what are the signs that
it is so? If not, what will it take to make it a learning society?
2. Is lifelong learning as it is defined in this module valued in
Philippine society? Explain your answer using the relevant
concepts and examples.

You might be asked to share your reflections in the online

discussion forum for Module 1.

4.0 Lifelong Learning and Formal, Nonformal, and

Informal Learning

In clarifying the concept of lifelong learning, we need to consider how it

relates to formal, nonformal (or non-formal), and informal learning.
Lifelong learning has some of the properties of all three types of learning.
However, for heuristic purposes, it is important to be able to distinguish
between “lifelong learning that is a normal and natural part of everyday
life” and “systematic, purposeful, organized learning that lifelong
education seeks to foster” (Knapper and Cropley, 2000, p. 12).

Consider Tables 1-1 and 1-2.

Table 1-1. Differences among formal, nonformal, and informal

education according to Etllng (1993)
Formal Education Nonformal Informal
Education Education
Definition Coombs (1973, p. Kleis (1973. p. 6): Etllng, 1993:
11): “the any intentional Unplanned and
hierarchically and systematic unorganized
structured, educational learning from
chronologically enterprise (usually everyday
graded outside of experiences;
educational system traditional incidental learning
running from schooling) in which
primary school content is adapted Knapper and
through the to the unique needs Cropley (2000):
university and of the students (or spontaneous, day-
including, in unique situations) to-day learning, or
addition to general in order to unplanned, even
academic studies, maximize learning unconscious,

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

a variety of and minimize other learning

specialized elements which
programs and often occupy formal
institutions for school
full-time technical teachers (i.e. taking
and professional roll, enforcing
training” (quoted by discipline, writing
Etllng, 1993) reports, supervising
study hall,
Location Schools Learning centers Anywhere
Curriculum Focus on Focus on practical No curriculum
theoretical knowledge and
knowledge skills
Prescribed and Cafeteria style
sequential curriculum, giving
curriculum learners options
and choices
Relationships Hierarchical and Informal Life experiences
fixed (less open to relationships: less may be interpreted
change) rigid roles of or explained by
relationships teachers and elders or peers
between teachers learners
and learners More learner-
centered than
formal education
Educator Directive Democratic and non-directive; more
styles leadership flexible
Examples Typical high school Boy scouts session Young child
classroom learning to speak
Watching the news
on TV

Table 1-2. Differences among formal, nonformal and informal

learning according to Coletta (1996; in Knapper and Cropley)
Formal learning Nonformal Informal learning
Deliberateness Deliberate Deliberate Incidental
Structuredness Highly structured Structured Normally not
learners and
teachers may not
see it as learning
at all
Content Emphasizes Emphasis is on Frequently about
acquisition of acquisition of skills attitudes, values
predetermined or skills, rather
knowledge than bodies of

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

Certification Formal Seldom formal No certification

certification or certification

Note that formal and nonformal education are different but not oppositional.
Both involve deliberate or intentional and organized learning. But nonformal
education shares a degree of flexibility with nonformal education, especially
in terms of the teaching and learning roles.

We undergo or experience all three forms of learning throughout

life. Moreover, as Etllng (2003) reminds us, “all three types of
education provide powerful learning opportunities”. In addition,
formal learning interacts with informal day-to-day learning, such
that they facilitate or inhibit each other.

However, the concept of lifelong learning that this module is concerned

with refers to “planned, purposeful, systematic, worthwhile learning—
not just with any and all learning” (Field and Leicester, p. xvii, emphasis
in original). So defined, lifelong learning includes both formal and
nonformal learning activities and programs.

As a ‘deliberate’ form of learning, lifelong learning has the following

dimensions: (Tight, 1971, in Knapper and Cropley, 2000, p. 12)

1. It is intentional – learners are aware that they are learning.

2. It has specific goals, and it is not aimed at vague
generalizations such as ‘developing the mind’.
3. These goals are the reason why the learning is undertaken (i.e. it
is not motivated simply by factors like boredom).
4. The learner intends to retain and use what has been learnt for
a considerable period of time.

We shall discuss these dimensions further in Module 3.

Required Reading

Dave, R.H. (1973). Concept-characteristics of lifelong education. Lifelong

Education and School Curriculum. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for
Education. Pp. 9-30. Available at
Last accessed 05 January 2018.

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.


Ahmed, M. (2009). The state and development of adult learning and

education in Asia and the Pacific (Regional Synthesis Report). Hamburg:
UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Available at
Last accessed 05 January 2018.
Delors, J. et al. (1996). Learning: The Treasure Within [Highlights].
Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for
the 21st Century. UNESCO Publishing. Available online at
Last accessed 05 January 2018.

Edwards, R. (2000). Lifelong learning, lifelong learning, lifelong learning:

A recurrent education? In Field, J. and Leicester, M. (eds.). Lifelong
Learning: Education Across the Lifespan. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Etling, A. (1993). What is nonformal education? Journal of Agricultural Education,

34(4), 72-76.
Available at
Last accessed 05 January 2018.

Faure, E. et al. (1972). Learning To Be: The World of Education Today

and Tomorrow. Paris: UNESCO. Available at
Last accessed 05January 2018.

Field, J. (2006). Lifelong Learning and The New Educational Order.

Staffordshire: Trentham Books Limited.

Jarvis, P. (2004). Adult Educaiton and Lifelong Learning. 3rd Edition.

Knapper, C.K. and Cropley, A.J. (2000). Lifelong Learning in

Higher Education. 3rd Edition. London: Kogan Page.

*Maehl, W.H. (2002). Lifelong learning. In Educational Encyclopedia by

Answers.com. Available at http://www.answers.com/topic/lifelong-
learning. Last accessed 24 January 2010.

Schuller, T. and Watson, D. (2009). Summary. Learning Through

Life: Inquiry Into the Future of Lifelong Learning. Available at
Last accessed 05 January 2018.

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Arinto, P. and Bandalaria, M. (2009). Lifelong Learning. EDDE 211 Course Manual.
University of the Philippines Open University.

Sutherland, P. and Crowther, J. (eds.) (2006). Lifelong Learning: Concepts

and Contexts. London: Routledge.
Last accessed 05 January 2018.

UNESCO. (2003) What is Open and Distance Learning. Available at

Last accessed 05 January 2018.

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