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International symposium on lifelong learning for poverty alleviation and sustainable development: Developing a research agenda for the Asia-Pacific

In the light of the global challenges facing us, lifelong learning has emerged as one of the keys to improving the quality of life in the 21st century. It is no longer sufficient to have a sound initial education: one must continue to acquire new knowledge and skills to benefit from the new opportunities that advances in science and technology bring, and to cope with the difficulties of life in world of change. The evidence confirms that investing in learning pays off for both individuals and nations, in terms of income, employment, productivity, health and other benefits. Moreover, providing opportunities to learn throughout life turns out to be a crucial factor in the struggle to eradicate poverty and to educate for sustainable development. But adopting the principle of lifelong learning does demand a new vision, one that shifts the emphasis from education to learning; one that moves to a more seamless and user-friendly system; one that recognizes the diversity of ways in which knowledge and skills can be acquired in the information age outside of the formal system. In particular, if progress is to be made in reducing poverty and ensuring development is sustainable, governments and the international community will need to meet their commitments and take the steps needed to make lifelong learning for all a reality.