The Pursuit of Lifelong Learning for a Sustainable Future: Lessons from Leaders of Learning

According to the World Population Prospects (UN DESA), life expectancy at birth for the world reached 72.6 years in 2019, having added more than eight years since 1990. A recent Routledge publication, "The 60-Year Curriculum," also called 60CY, came as no surprise as our longevity has an impact on the future of work.

But lifelong learning is not only job-oriented. The promotion of continuous knowledge acquisition in a fast-changing world that requires new skills also improves non-economic values such as individual civic participation, social cohesion, and strong citizenship.

The recently launched podcast series SDG Learncast by UN SDG:Learn features leaders of learning for sustainable development. How can learning help in adapting skillsets, mindsets, and behaviors towards a more sustainable future?

In the episode, The Changing Role of Learning for the Future of Work – Closing the skills gap, Sheila Jagannathan of the World Bank Open Learning Campus highlighted the changing role of the 'teacher' from being a 'sage on the stage' to becoming a 'guide on the side'. The role shifted to facilitating active learning by effectively utilizing learning tools and resources. There is also a shift in the learner's role; it moves away from individualized to collaborative learning.

Cristina Petracchi of the FAO eLearning Academy shares her insights on running global hackathons in the SDG Learncast episode How to Hack Hackathons? – Using collective brainpower to solve food insecurity. She highlighted the shift FAO made in conducting competitive hackathons to making them more collaborative. "As soon as we decided to ask participants to help each other and to produce something that is the result of their work together, and not their own project that they came with, the entire mindset has changed."

How can learning help us prepare for the future? In the episode, What can we learn from the future? – The role of futurists in achieving sustainable development, Professor Sohail Inayutallah, the UNESCO Inaugural Chair of Future Studies, shared tools to build what he calls "Preferred Futures". The narratives, metaphors, and stories we tell ourselves affect how we make the impossible possible. "Because the metaphor is a way that you can communicate on often intangible futures in words that people can appreciate, understand."

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