In her 2011 paper ‘The Learning Society as a Key for Development’, Alina Popescu from Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, Romania, surmised the definition of a learning society as:
“…a society that enhances learning for all. It addresses individual development, as well as social cohesion, through promoting lifelong learning for all its members, irrespective of age, gender, social status or work status.”
For many countries, building a learning society or transforming the present society into a learning one has proven to be a challenge, yet it remains vital in developing a highly knowledgeable workforce that are capable of adapting to rapid socio-economic changes brought about by the digital age.
Popescu noted from her analysis of various academic writings several aspects that should be taken into consideration to establish such society, as well as putting together comprehensive lifelong learning systems.
One of these aspects is information and communications technology (ICT), which plays a crucial role in providing technical capabilities needed to develop learning societies and lifelong learning systems.
ICT is also important to prepare students and youth for any form of learning required in a learning society through formal, non-formal and informal education.
Aside from technical skills, ICT must focus on soft skills that are essential in a learning society, including collaboration through networking and problem solving.
Additionally, it should be able to lead to the creation of various online learning platforms as a means of extending the outcomes of learning to a wide range of audience, thereby guaranteeing access and participation for everyone in a learning society.
Another aspect to take account of in establishing a learning society is the development and diversification of lifelong learning resources, which can be integrated through learning platforms.
Here, efforts to promote and inculcate lifelong learning within the society should cater to the learning requirements of diverse individuals in varied learning environments.
Thus, lifelong learning resources should be structured for different age groups throughout an individual’s lifespan; diversified to meet various learning needs, be they personal development or enjoyment; multi-sourced, as in lifelong learning being offered by more than one learning provider; and multi-delivered, in terms of providing a myriad of delivery types and formats.
Perhaps a crucial aspect in building a learning society is implementing a multi-stakeholder approach, in which all organisations within the public and private sectors, as well as citizens themselves, should embrace their respective new educational roles to ensure the longevity of lifelong learning systems and ultimately becoming important players in the society.
Governments are especially instrumental in establishing a learning society; in its 2010 white paper on the learning society, tech company CISCO stated that governments should reduce its role as a near monopoly education provider and prioritise the following functions:
- To convene the new and unusual coalition necessary to govern the learning society;
- To articulate the goals and valued outcomes for the learning society, and to act as champion of them;
- To evaluate and assess how far those goals have been met;
- To help knit the system together, as learning is distributed between institutions and through communities;
- To provide the all-important conceptual framework for what is being achieved;
- To protect and promote the interests of the underprivileged and those least likely to participate in the learning society;
- To embrace non-traditional providers and using regulation, deregulation, and funding to spur disruptive innovation