Lifelong Learning: Why We Welcome Mature Students
You may hear someone say “high school-aged” in reference to a teenager (the term even appears on this blog). But “high school-aged,” despite being a convenient shortcut for discussing young people, is ultimately a misnomer.
High school is not strictly a rite of passage for young people; it is the development of essential skills, knowledge and critical thinking tools. And that development has no age limit, no restrictions to entry. At Ontario eSecondary School, we believe that learning is an essential feature of everyone’s self-development, which is why we are happy to see mature students grace the digital hallways of our school.
To celebrate learners of all ages, we want to carve out some space in this article to discuss “lifelong learning.” We will talk a little bit about what lifelong learning is, and explore its importance through a series of benefits. Finally, we’ll offer a few words of advice for all the mature students joining us about how to get back in the learning groove.
What Is Lifelong Learning?
There are two ways to answer the question, “what is lifelong learning?”. On the one hand, we could answer the question technically, defining the parameters of adult education by describing qualifications, eligibility, etc. On the other hand, we can approach the question more philosophically, exploring what it means to dedicate yourself to a life of learning.
Mainly, we’ll tackle the question in the latter way. But let’s quickly address the former: Mature students, who benefit from a lifelong learning approach, qualify in Ontario if they are at least 18, were previously enrolled in a secondary school credit program, and have been out of school for at least a year. Visit our webpage on mature students (linked in the intro section above) to learn more about qualifying as a mature student.
Now, onto what lifelong learning means in a philosophical sense.
A Commitment to Self-Improvement
Self-improvement means different things to different people. For some, it might entail running a half-marathon at their personal best. For others, it may be the quiet work of becoming a more present parent. However, some things are true of all self-improvement projects – they take time, effort and personal reflection.
Learning is the same way. Only it is a constant state of self-improvement, an ongoing project we set for ourselves. Think of your online education courses as investments in personal self-development.
An Understanding That Education Is a Process
As mentioned above, learning is an ongoing project. That’s not to say the end results aren’t worthy of celebrating – it’s a joyful day when you get your Ontario Secondary School Diploma in the mail! – but, as with many things in life, education is as much about the journey as the destination.
Hopefully, the concept of education as a process helps some mature learners out there who are on the fence about re-entering high school. Humans never stop learning. If you take some courses at 25, others at 45 and the rest at aged 65, that’s just you governing the details of your learning process!
A Chance at a Do-Over
Mature learners arrive at OES with a diverse list of reasons for not completing high school before. Perhaps experiences in your personal life held you back from earning your diploma. Maybe you followed the call of the workforce and put your education on hold. Or it’s possible that the first time you went through high school, you just didn’t care as deeply about education as you do now.
Whatever the reasons, lifelong learning offers the potential for a do-over, a way for you to take the wheel of your educational destiny.
A Belief in Human Potential
Lifelong learning underscores a broader, humanistic philosophy: that people of any age, upbringing or station in life have tons of potential.
Below, when we discuss how to make the most of your mature education, we’ll explore the idea of “developing a growth mindset.” It’s a concept we’ve written about before on this blog. Essentially, developing a growth mindset is when students understand that their abilities can be developed – that intelligence isn’t a static, inherited trait. You have the potential to develop skills, creative abilities and multiple forms of intelligence.
Why Is Lifelong Learning Important?
We sort of answered the question of “why is lifelong learning important” when we detailed what it was. We know that it commits people to self-improvement, expands the educative process, allows do-overs and underscores a belief in human potential.
But let’s tackle the question in even more specific terms. In the following section, let’s cycle through a few advantages of mature education that testify to its importance.
It Helps Employability
It almost feels like whiplash to move from the philosophical, meditative reasons for lifelong learning to – we’ll say – practical matters. However, one of the most commonly cited reasons for re-entering high school is that it helps with employability.
Statistics Canada recently surveyed the labour market outcomes of people without a high school diploma, finding that “the employment rates of young adults without a high school diploma are at their lowest point in more than 20 years.”
In a prior survey, they found that the employment rate of men without a diploma was 75% (compared to 87% for those with a diploma). Typically, our teachers would caution that “correlation doesn’t always equal causation,” but labour spectators can comfortably assert that earning a high school diploma boosts one’s employability.
It Opens New Career Options
Even for adults who have a job, continuing your education can still be fruitful. For starters, it expands your career options.
If your dream job is to become a veterinary technician, let’s say (because who wouldn’t love earning a living around puppies), you need to attend a veterinary technology program. To do that, you need a high school diploma. The same is true of many well-paying, highly sought-after professions.
The practice of changing professions later in life has become increasingly popular in recent decades. As people age, they become more attuned to their particular wants and needs, and seek out jobs that reflect their new understanding of themselves. If you want to chase your dream job but don’t yet have the high school diploma to get started, visit Ontario eSecondary School to make your dreams come true.
It May Forestall Mental Decline
In 2012, The New York Times published a popular article entitled “Exercising an Aging Brain,” in which the journalist spoke to neurology and neuroscience professors about the effects of learning on brain health in older age. The article also touches on lifelong learning, drawing a direct link between cognitive health later in life and the continuing pursuit of education.
Without the science to back up the claim, it still makes intuitive sense. The brain needs exercise, just like other parts of the body, to remain happy and healthy. Lifelong learning, therefore, is akin to stay physically active throughout your life.
It Inspires Self-Reliance
In an 1841 essay, writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson popularized the term “self-reliance.” Self-reliance, said Emerson, can be boiled down to a pocket-sized maxim: “Trust thyself.” If you believe in your inalienable sense of self-worth, you can control your circumstances – rather than your circumstances controlling you.
Since its publication, the essay has gained traction with professionals in several fields, including psychology. In this thought-provoking piece, psychologist Catherine Moore lists three real-world examples of self-reliance: thinking independently, striving toward your own goals and embracing who you are.
Lifelong education can inspire self-reliance by allowing students of any age to pursue their goals and take charge of their circumstances. Many of the courses we offer at Ontario eSecondary School also teach critical thinking skills.
How to Make the Most of Your Lifelong Education
So, you’ve decided to be a lifelong learner. You are deciding to proudly step forward, enroll in an adult high school online and either earn your diploma or simply learn for learning’s sake. We love to see it.
But getting back in the educational groove takes some adjustment. In the spirit of support, we want to help you make the most of your re-entry into school. Below, we discuss how online schools ease the transition back into learning, and offer a few broad tips for re-entering the classroom.
The Flexibility and Accommodability of an Online School
When some adults think about going back to school, they get nervous. “Will I have to sit in a packed classroom alongside students much younger than me?” “Will I feel pressured to keep pace with my peers, some of whom may be more accustomed or advanced in their learning?” And, “how will I fit my course schedule into my already busy life – after all, being an adult is tiring enough!”
Online schools address each of these concerns. At Ontario eSecondary School, you complete your courses online, so there’s no reason to worry about external social pressure. Our courses are also self-paced, meaning you can set the pace however you wish; you can take longer on concepts you find challenging and shorter on things you find easy to understand.
Finally, online courses are flexible, making them an ideal model for adult learners. You can take six weeks to complete a course, or you can take a full twelve months. You can work in the morning before the kids are out of bed, or in the evening when you get off work. If obligations arise that need your attention (a kid with a cold or visiting in-laws, for instance), you can divert your attention without fear of getting a tardy slip.
We at OES know what it’s like to be adults with full schedules. We strive to be accommodating so that you can prioritize your life and learn too.
Developing a Growth Mindset
We mentioned it above, but let’s dive deeper – how do you develop a growth mindset? How do you reframe your thinking to say, “I can develop skills and knowledge,” rather than “I can’t help the way I am.”?
In our article on developing a growth mindset, we offer the following pieces of advice:
- Don’t assume you already have a growth mindset, which can hinder your efforts to work at it. In reality, most people have both fixed and growth mindsets.
- When faced with challenges, it’s important not to fall too deeply into insecurity. We may encounter times when we fare poorly compared to others, but that shouldn’t hold us back from continuing to try.
- Setbacks are opportunities for learning. We tend to view mistakes as “bad,” but that isn’t the most constructive way to categorize mistakes. Try redefining a mistake as an indicator of growth, an opportunity to get better, a good thing.
- Enjoy putting in time and effort. Develop an interest in the processes of learning and improvement, which can make your efforts more enjoyable.
We encourage you to check out the original article, which also contains activities you can try to put your growth mindset into practice.
Learning Effective Study Habits
Studying is like any other dedicated task – it requires attention, discipline and the right environment. Imagine trying to cook dinner without the right tools, paying only half attention and giving up partway through; chances are you end up with a half-cooked dinner!
Instead, try forming strong study habits that enable you to acquire, process and retain new information.
- Set up a dedicated study space somewhere free of distractions.
- Get comfortable.
- Make a list of personal academic goals and chart a road map toward achieving them.
- Plan your study sessions ahead of time to avoid “cramming.”
- Make sure to take frequent breaks to give your brain a rest.
- Get proper sleep and adequate exercise, both of which aid in concentration.
- Never be afraid to ask for assistance. OES offers support in the form of your awesome teachers and access to 24/7 tutoring. We want you to take all the help you need.
It may take some time to get back in the swing of things, but that’s okay! Remember, OES courses are flexible and self-paced. Take the time you need to reacquaint yourself with how to study and learn.
If you consider yourself a lifelong learner and are interested in becoming a mature student, please visit our website to learn more about enrollment. If you have any questions, refer to our FAQ section or contact us. We look forward to learning together.
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