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Life Long Learning “Literacy as a Human Right”

Written by on February 21, 2019

Lifelong learning’ (Colloquialism) is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, rather than competitiveness and employability, (Fischer, 2000). In a fast-changing and highly inequitable world, lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important, not only as a key organizing principle for all forms of education and learning but also as an absolute necessity for everyone. It is particularly important for disadvantaged individuals and groups who have been excluded from or failed to acquire basic competencies through formal schooling. Within a lifelong learning framework, literacy and numeracy are viewed as foundational skills which are the core of basic education and indispensable to full participation in society. Literacy is the foundation to exercising ones’ franchise rights that are bestowed on citizens Among the United Nations’ new set of post-2015 global development goals, termed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the proposed overarching education goal is: ‘‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’’, (Hanemann U. , 2014).

Since literacy is increasingly being perceived as a complex, context-bound and dynamic phenomenon, a major challenge is how to address literacy in the context of a lifelong learning perspective at and beyond the elementary and fundamental stages of education, (Cree, Key, & Stewart, 2012). Literacy definitions and concepts have developed in tandem with new social and pedagogical theories, as well as with technological and other developments, characteristic of the increasingly complex and globalized societies of the 21st century. Changes in the economy, the nature of work, the role of media and digitization, as well as in society as a whole have considerably increased the importance of literacy for citizens compared to past decades, (Easton, 2014). Research is needed that compares adult literacy development among program participants and nonparticipants across multiple contexts and over significant periods of time to provide a life-wide and lifelong perspective on adult literacy development, and a better assessment of program impact on a range of outcome measures, (Reder, 2012).


Cree, A., Key, A., & Stewart, J. (2012). The economic and social cost of illiteracy: A snapshot of illiteracy in a global context. Melbourne: World Literacy Foundation.

Easton, P. (2014). Developing literate environments: Fleshing out the demand side of Education for All. International Journal of Educational Development, 34, 3 – 10.

Fischer, G. (2000). Life long learning – More than training. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 11(34), 265-294.

Hanemann, U. (2014). Early literacy: A stepping stone for lifelong learning. In J. Mass, C. Seelmann, & S. Ehmig, Prepare for Life! Raising awareness for early literacy education (pp. 254 – 271). Paris: UNESCO.

Hanemann, U. (2015). Lifelong literacy: Some trends and issues in conceptualising and operationalising literacy from a lifelong learning perspective. International Review of Education(61), 295 – 326. doi:10.1007/s11159-015-9490-0

Reder, S. (2012). The longitudinal study of adult learning: Challenging assumptions. Portland: The Center for Literacy.

by Doug Heath

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