Lifelong learning: The key to a budding workplace

Educationists argue that lifelong learning is a state of mind, but something that we can make much more likely by the ways in which we encourage young people to learn.

Lifelong learning is defined as is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.


Encouraging lifelong learning at the workplace


Prof Philip Cotton Obe, Vice-Chancellor, University of Rwanda, believes that there is a need to re-imagine the workplace and businesses as ‘learning organisations’.


He says it’s essential to understand how a company can learn from its mistakes and its successes; how does it become better by analysing and reflecting on what it can learn and has learned?

Cotton says there is also another facet to being a learning organisation and a place for ‘apprenticeship’ — a place where people learn trades and skills by observation, by working alongside, by being corrected and celebrated.

“At this time in the university, lecturers, and professors have become the learners – learning new ways of teaching and interacting with students through online platforms,” he says.

The professor adds that a university is a place of learning, and that we all learn on a daily basis.

“It is just that some of us pay to learn (students) and some of us are paid to learn (lecturers).

“As adults and lecturers, if we are caught up in imparting knowledge and facts to students, we forget that we are also learners. Of course, through research and through teaching, we also learn - many times every day,” he adds.

 What to keep in mind

Cotton notes that there is a need to familiarise young people in school and higher education institutions with problem-solving approaches.

He urges that one should never be too arrogant to believe that they are done learning.

Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, a lecturer of mathematics at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says it’s important to note that lifelong learning does not necessarily limit itself to informal learning.

Instead, he says, understanding that this is all about being voluntary with the purpose of achieving personal fulfilment is key.

He points out that most of us have goals or interests outside of school and work.

“We have a natural curiosity and we are natural learners and this is because of our ability to learn, while recognising that not all of our learning comes from a classroom,” he observes.

Augustin Manirakiza, a pharmaceutical student at University of Rwanda, says learners should be engaged in never-ending studies, research, and practices to meet job requirements on the labour market and also have career outcomes.

He notes that extracurricular activities such as leadership, campaigns, conferences, and community volunteering, serve as the source of surplus skills that portray the competitiveness of someone — in this case, students.

However, educators, he says, shouldn’t lag behind to improve their knowledge of understanding and experience through teaching, research, leadership, and decision-making.

“Educators should continually renew and boost knowledge and skills in order to grow personally and professionally,” he says.


Uworwabayeho says in the fast pace of today’s economy, organisations are now seeing lifelong learning as a core component in employee development.

The idea, he says, is that employees should engage in constant personal learning in order to be adaptable and flexible for the organisation to stay competitive and relevant.

“Employers need employees with the up-to-date product and market knowledge. They also need them to have the skills, capabilities, and mind-set to succeed in their specific job role,” he says.

David Kwizera, an entrepreneur, says he believes that learning should have no end date.

He notes that the fast-changing world requires us to keep our skills up-to-date, and thanks to the internet, information has become freely accessible.

“In other words, we have no other choice but to keep learning, be it in learning institutions or outside the school environment,” he adds.

One thing to keep in mind, Uworwabayeho says, is development doesn’t always mean promotion.

“This can lead to a stir in staff that don’t see any career progression. By offering educational programmes as part of your employee’s career path, as an organisation, you can encourage them to remain loyal and productive,” he adds.

Research has shown that lifelong learning can also support one’s internal mobility strategy. This in turn can help meet skill shortages, as well as nurture tomorrow’s leaders.

Also, employees need to be responsible for their lifelong learning. They need to be aware of changing industry trends and build their capabilities to align with that.

According to Cotton, this will give them a competitive edge over other professionals and help them remain employable throughout their working life.

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