Life moves very quickly and this month will have seen many people young and old start a new education path either in school, college, university or even workplace learning. Maybe you are watching the social media wave of kids showing off uniforms in front of doors, wishing you had the bravery to kick off a career change or start a new chapter in your life through learning something new...
Then why don't you do it?
Lifelong learning is a simple concept of kickstarting your eduction voluntarily (i.e. after your years of compulsory education). At any stage of life after you exit compulsory education, you can jump back into the books and try something new. The term "mature student" is often misinterpreted as the retiree or non-working adult trying to fill their days but it can refer to any adult looking to learn something new.
This concept does not appeal to everyone. Some people spent their youth counting the days until they could walk away from compulsory education, some did not find the experience suitable to their life goals or learning styles, some hold beliefs about better ways of learning outside the classroom. That is fine, this is not a blog selling the benefits of getting back into a formal schooling environment.
The important thing to realise is that continuous learning is a part of our lives whether we realise it or not. We could not survive as a species if we got a certain point in our maturity and say "that's enough, this is all the knowledge and skill I need to survive for the rest of my life, I've got this"...life is too complex and fluid to get away with that. Whatever your views on your time in compulsory education, that does not mean you could get away from continuing to learn new things as you get older.
Numbers of mature students in the UK (anyone over the age of 21 at the time they start their studies) has fallen in recent years according to HESA but there are a number of factors behind this including tuition fees, finance systems and opportunities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. But the formal route of going back to college or university is not the only route into lifelong learning.
There is a growing number of organisations and education bodies that are opening up learning opportunities for online channels. Advances in technologies means that even classroom learning can be managed via the web. Businesses are also becoming more open to financing learning opportunities for their staff, as they see greater value in investing in their own talent over recruiting new talent. The concept of the “job for life” is fading which means that more of us are making huge changes in our careers that require new skills and capabilities.
And of course, learning can take many forms including:
reading (pretty much anything)
listening (e.g. attending seminars)
watching documentaries on TV
'Short & Sharp' learning (don't take on big tasks, learn a little every day)
The most important consideration you need to make is about the best way for you to learn. Not everybody responds well to "book learning", as this is what many struggle with during those early school years....
The challenge is there for you to consider this; if you need to learn new things anyway, why not learn something that you want to learn? There are opportunities out there, many will be easily accessible to you in some way so give it a go and learn something new today.