UNESCO’s four pillars of education (learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be) are guiding principles for educational change that emphasize a holistic and sustainable approach – a higher order set of skills to aspire for self-actualization to better meet our complex and ever-changing world. The pillars cut through cultural differences and unify all ages; they emphasize the basic individual right towards a new vision of life-long learning for the 21st Century. “Lifelong learning” covers learning from preschool age to post-retirement age ; however, much attention and research have been focused on education and learning for children and youth with little attention focused on the adult aspect of learning . This has however now begun to gain more significance within the context of the global economic crisis and high unemployment rates, as well as the challenges of acquiring a new skill and career transitioning, where it is not only commonplace but is expected. We have a growing population of adults who find they can no longer rely on education and skills they acquired in school to last them to the end of their working lives.
In addition, there is the issue of delivering flexible learning arrangements that can fit into working adults’ lives. Most adults have limited time to invest in after-working-hours formal learning, as they find themselves already over-scheduled with family obligations on top of work. According to a recent OECD study on adult learning policies and procedures (2005), “shaping delivery of learning programs to match adult learners’ specific needs … can improve the motivation of those who find either no reason for or obstacles to participation.” In light of this, I have chosen to conduct my field study at a particular firm where learning programs are offered as part of continuous training and development for its employees.
As an instructor of Business/Professional English for working adults, I travel to places of employment where I conduct English instruction. After studying UNESCO’s four pillars of education, I have tried to integrate the values that UNESCO’s four pillars promote in my instructional approach, as well as setting an example of the values through my own learning and working as an adult and member of society. I realized early on in my field study that the non-traditional ‘classroom’ setting of place of work was in fact an ideal source to observe evidence (or lack-there-of) of the values promoted in ‘learning to do’, the pillar I would like to highlight in this paper.
According to the UNESCO report Learning the Treasure Within (1996), the value of ‘learning to do’ not only involves acquiring “an occupational skill, but also more broadly, the competence to deal with many situations...It also means learning to do in a context of … various social and work experiences, which may be informal as a result of the local or national context, or formal, involving courses,...