These days, there is no excuse for not learning. The question is how to stimulate intrinsic motivation in the absence of extrinsic motivation driven by employability. We explore ways to support learners with inclusion and integration in mind.

Learning from day one

Learning starts from the moment we are born. Learning by doing, learning by mimicking, learning by rote, learning by deducing – there are many ways in which we learn. Once we start kindergarten and school, we fit in to standardised learning, where our ability to learn in a vertical manner is tested, at all levels of schooling and systems are subject to international comparisons, such as PISA. Many of us go on to an apprenticeship or university, and some stay in education even beyond that.

Once released into the labour market, we are required to learn on the job, sometimes too within formal learning structures, either in-house or outside the organisation.

The pressure to learn eases off at retirement. Given that retired people still have many active years ahead of them, it’s the perfect time to actively pursue new learning opportunities.

Closing the generation gap

The need to actively learn in order to acquire updated knowledge and stay in touch with societal developments is growing ever more pressing. The so-called Silver Surfer generation, which will comprise a large portion of the Swiss population within the next few decades, must keep pace with technological change. The benefits are many: Cheaper (electronic) invoices from major suppliers, cheaper bank services online than offline, ease and joy of electronic communication with children and grandchildren…All of these require at the very least basic technology and literacy skills.

Learning for inclusion and integration

People with disabilities, whatever those may be, also need to master new technologies, at whatever level they can, to ensure inclusion. A great deal of work is being done in assistive technology. The aim is to promote greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that were previously impossible of very difficult. Efforts focus on improving or changing methods of interacting with the required technology. For example, for the visually impaired there are assistive technologies that include enlarging screens, Braille keyboards, voice recognition and reading machines.

Initiatives such as Step UP and PowerCoders for youth and adult immigrant populations provide livelihoods and renewed hope for integration and employment. Even the least qualified will need to learn new skills in order to navigate tomorrow’s world. On-the-job learning as well as reverse mentoring from children and friends can enable knowledge transfer without offending hierarchical or cultural sensitivities.

How to select lifelong learning opportunities?

While the labour market has very clear needs in terms of skills – teamwork, complex problem-solving, communication, creativity, agility etc. – those outside the workforce may have more difficulty selecting leaning opportunities. An internet search reveals a wide array of online courses from all over the world – on many topics and in many different languages. That is one reason why it is so important that schools teach how to refine searches online and seek out credible sources. Offline courses at the Universities of the Third Age in Switzerland offer a wide variety of subjects for older citizens to keep their knowledge up to date, including basic computing skills. Just as the real world needs exploring, so does the virtual world.