Lifelong Learning should be nurtured, requires greater recognition

A Regional Meeting on Lifelong Learning in Asia and the Pacific organized by the ILO opens in Bangkok to promote lifelong-learning initiatives and develop workforce knowledge and skills in response to changes in the labour market.

Press release | BANGKOK | 08 December 2003

Bangkok (ILO News) – The extent to which a country can become a knowledge-based economy depends how quickly it can become a learning economy, Labour Minister Mrs Uraiwan Thienthong said today during the official opening of a Regional Meeting on Lifelong Learning in Asia and the Pacific organized by the International Labour Office (ILO).

“To do this, formal education and training needs to change its emphasis. Instead of passing on specific pieces of information, formal education should teach people how to learn throughout life,” Mrs Thienthong said. “More and more we see that individuals, firms and countries that create the most wealth are the ones that are able to learn fastest – and to share the things they learn.”

The Labour Minister said the value and process of lifelong learning must be nurtured and recognized within schools, education and training institutions, higher education facilities, government departments, as well as the home and workplace.

Representatives of governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations from 15 countries in Asia and the Pacific1 have gathered in Bangkok during 8-10 December to promote lifelong-learning initiatives and develop workforce knowledge and skills in response to changes in the labour market. This takes place amid rapid skills obsolescence and an ever increasing demand for higher skilled workers.

In many countries, education and training policies attach increasing importance to “basic skills” (EU) or “critical enabling skills” (Singapore) that are needed in order to perform satisfactorily at work and in society, irrespective of a worker’s country of origin.

In some countries in Asia and the Pacific, lifelong learning initiatives have made considerable progress during recent years, according to a report prepared for the meeting2. In the Republic of Korea, the number of people participating in the country’s Vocational Ability Development Programme (VADP) grew by 60 per cent between 1999 and 2001. And in Singapore, 33 per cent of residents aged 15-64 were engaged in some form of job-related structured training in 2000.

Statistics show a disproportionate share of more skilled people participating in adult education and learning, which is interpreted as evidence of unequal access and considered unfair. The existing learning divide runs the danger of becoming wider, as access to lifelong learning opportunities and technologies, particularly in terms of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), is unequally distributed.

The International Labour Office (ILO) stresses a two-pronged approach to education, training and lifelong learning. The first, associated with efficiency, addresses the challenge of developing knowledge and skills necessary for competition in an increasingly integrated global economy.

The second envisions education, training and lifelong learning as ways to address the growing vulnerability of many population groups, including women, young people and low-skilled workers who through their lack of education and skills have become poor or run the danger of falling into the poverty gap.

Venue: Amari Watergate Hotel, Petchburi Road Bangkok

Interview slots can be arranged with:

Nieves R. Confessor, Dean, The Asian Institute of Management (AIM). A regional perspective on lifelong learning.

Trevor Riordan, ILO IFP/SKILLS. Overview, international perspectives, ILO’s work on knowledge and skills development.

Dr Garry Willmot, Workforce Development Agency, Ministry of Manpower, Singapore. Investment aspects, Professor Jack Keating, Melbourne University Recognition and certification of knowledge and skills gained outside formal training systems.


1 Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.

2 Lifelong learning in Asia and the Pacific : Policies and Practice, ILO, Bangkok 2003; the report can be downloaded.