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Lifelong Adult Learning

The idea that learning takes place during a person’s formative years is short-sighted in modern societies with ever changing employment models and vocations. As automation removes more and more unskilled labour occupations learning must be seen as an ongoing investment in society. With the decline of “blue-collar” jobs and the constantly evolving workplace it is essential that groups of adults can adapt and be kept up to date with the skills they need to succeed. Many of the jobs that acted as safety nets for those underachieving or uninterested in academic qualifications are disappearing, leaving a growing quantity of alienated and unproductive citizens. Australia has a proactive not-for-profit organisation for lifelong learning called Adult Learning Australia (ALA) which has been running for 55 years and is funded by a project grant from the Department of Education and Training.

According to the ALA there are five distinct groups of learners:

Foundation Learners –Comprises of those whose first language is not English, and those who did not acquire basic schooling on the core subjects. With the rise in skilled migrants it is important that language skills are also learned if required to allow them to both integrate into Australian society and carry out their occupations to the highest level possible. The second group may be of Australian heritage put due to a number of reasons did not acquire the skills needed to function in a modern workplace. Learning for these two groups will lead to a higher level of self-esteem, confidence and increase the likelihood of becoming an engaged member of society.

Lifelong Learners – Have performed well academically but has now become disconnected from the learning environment. They want to keep adding to what they already know and are looking for teaching at older ages.

Reluctant Learners – This group has experienced the hardest time in the education system. They may be reluctant to return to the educational environment but they need to learn so that they can participate in society. It is important to use strategies to help these learners through encouragement and goal driven curriculums.

Breaking Barriers Learners – While not having qualifications this group has underachieved because of reasons of hardship or other adverse situations. They may be highly academic and simply need a chance to succeed; they can achieve their potential if given the right environment.

Community Builders – People who want to increase their skills so that they can help engage with their community and add to its wellbeing.


The ALA has also argues that there are three types of learners. Visual learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners who learn by doing. It is important to identify the type of learner and adapt teaching programs accordingly.