Lifelong learning is a form of self-initiated education that is focused on personal development. While there is no standardized definition of lifelong learning, it has generally been taken to refer to the learning that occurs outside of a formal educational institute, such as a school, university or corporate training. This type of personal learning is also referred to as continuous learning.
Your ongoing education does not necessarily have to restrict itself to informal learning, however. It is best described as being voluntary with the purpose of achieving personal fulfillment. The means to achieve this could result in informal or formal education.
Our quest for knowledge is just part of what it means to be human: we have a natural curiosity and we are natural learners. We develop and grow thanks to our ability to learn.
Our practical learning experiences add to formal learning from a classroom. For example, in childhood, we learn to talk or ride a bike. As an adult, we learn how to use a smartphone or learn how to cook a new dish. These are examples of the everyday lifelong learning we engage in on a daily basis, either through socialization, trial and error, or self-initiated study.
Sometimes lifelong learning is used to describe a type of behavior that employers are seeking within the organization. Employers are recognizing that formal education credentials are not the only way to recognize and develop talent and that lifelong learning may be the desired trait.
Thanks to the fast pace of today’s knowledge economy, organizations are seeing lifelong learning as a core component in employee development. The idea is that employees should engage in constant personal learning in order to be adaptable and flexible for the organization to stay competitive and relevant.