Lifelong learning for lifelong testing

15 Jun 2023

Continuous assessment: Now until forever

The greatest lesson we never learnt at school was how much we will have to learn on our own. From Grade one to matric, we can’t wait “to be done with school”. Ha. Tell us another one.

Like many things that were popular in years gone by, such as cassette tapes and fax machines, the idea that one could “finish school” has met its end. Not with a shout, or a whisper, but with the screech, crackle, and twang of dial-up internet. That really is how long ago this extinction event occurred.

The moment that some of us had that vast ocean of information at our fingertips, our model of learning and education had to evolve or die. For centuries, many of us were convinced that the mark of a good education was what you knew. Could you whip out fascinating facts that confounded your opponent? Were you a repository of useful information that could flesh out your manager’s proposal to the CEO? What is the capital of Uzbekistan? We no longer have to know everything. The internet knows it for us. And so much more.

If it’s not what you know…

It’s not that no one cares about this talent anymore, it’s just that it’s more “boardgame” than “boardroom”. Like so many resources, if there are loads of it, we only want to know about the best of it. Now we ask how you know. How you got to that conclusion and if it will work. Cite your sources. Show your working. It’s a process. It’s a test. A test many feel that they may fail. The anxiety around keeping up with the constant developments can be overwhelming, which was evident for years in the Expanded Unemployment Rate, where discouraged work seekers made up 12-15% of the Not Economically Active portion of the unemployed. People who are able to work, but who are no longer looking for work, many because they feel they are no longer qualified.

Information from a provincial analysis of the importance of education in finding employment, indicated that the level of education plays a significant role in getting a job. This is not news. The advantages of a tertiary education are many and varied and they do not need further celebration here. In terms of addressing that anxiety however, how does one future-proof learning? Especially without a degree?

It’s knowing that you need to learn.

We need to tap into those thought processes and interrogate the questions we ask. Not only for our professional development, but for our own health and well-being. And that means learning and testing every day. In every field, every job, our working know-how will continue to adjust. With all the answers so readily available, we will learn the art of asking. Practising daily.

For many of us, it’s learning on the job. For others, a passionate curiosity that taught them the value of the right question over the right answer. It can be daunting. It opens us up to critique of our very thought-process, not just the quality of our recall. Especially as we get older. Few want to be confronted with so many new things all the time. As humans, we like the predictable, the familiar and the trusted. We don’t need nice, we need consistent. And that’s the kicker. Everyone from Elon Musk to the World Economic Forum has weighed in on how much we have to rely on our ability to keep learning. The ways we learn have to change. We need to learn how to learn. Fast.

Just like doing a crossword or Sudoku, keeping our minds active and engaged on this level pays dividends down the road. In a world where it is incredibly difficult to go back to school, qualify or requalify and start over every time your chosen field evolves, you have to roll with the punches. Especially because at the current rate, few schools can update their lessons fast enough.

Your best resource will be a willingness to learn new tricks, and not to snap at the young pups when they have something to teach the old dogs. There is so much that we can share between us.

Think this sounds impossible? Prepare to be delightfully wrong. The good news is that these questions are being asked by more and more South Africans. The youth and the young at heart are not waiting for answers, they are out there, working out how to get where they want to be. It’s a small percentage now, but it is consistent. It is growth.

More than ever, it is vital to keep your options open. Taking learning seriously, at any age, is the only definite way forward. Everything else will be educated guesswork.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Written by Caitlin de Villiers – Content & Community Specialist at Legal&Tax.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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