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China's lifelong learning efforts lauded at meeting

By Wang Xin in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-14 09:48
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UNESCO officials have praised China's initiatives in promoting lifelong learning and are ramping up joint efforts with a Shanghai university to cultivate teachers as lifelong learners, particularly in light of a worldwide shortage of teaching professionals.

During a workshop at Shanghai Normal University on Wednesday, the university unveiled its new Research Institute for Lifelong Learning and Sustainable Development, a move to deepen research on teachers' lifelong learning and further enhance international cooperation and exchanges on promoting global teacher professional development.

Co-organized by Shanghai Normal University and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, the three-day workshop is an important part of a collaborative project looking at international research, policy and practice on lifelong learning for teachers.

Lifelong learning has been emphasized as a way to help address social issues and achieve sustainable development for over half a century, experts said at the workshop, and teachers play an essential role in global education transformation.

However, the teaching workforce is facing big challenges globally. Recent estimates of the global teacher shortage show that 44 million primary and secondary teachers will be needed by 2030 to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in education, UNESCO said in a report released earlier this year.

To tackle the issue, the report highlighted the need for a lifelong learning mindset from the start of a teacher's pre-service training, and building systems that can develop a continuum of lifelong learning.

"Technology can support teaching and learning, but cannot replace educators," said Rakhat Zholdoshalieva, team leader of quality learning ecosystems at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. "The teacher shortage is a complex issue, and not just an issue for the developing countries, but a global one."

She said Europe and North America are also experiencing shortages, despite their well-structured and funded education systems.

Zholdoshalieva hailed the efforts China has been making in promoting lifelong learning.

"China has been putting a lot of emphasis on lifelong learning," she said. "It has been reflected in the policy development. There is a very strong emphasis in China by the government, and by the community as well, in the creation of a vibrant learning society. Today, there are many other examples in the industry that China provides promising practices for us to learn.

"With the launch of the new research center, we can see the commitment of the university to contribute to the evidence-based policymaking by doing research together."

Bringing together more than 30 experts from over 10 countries in various fields, the workshop aims to build consensus on the research objectives, methodology and scope of the project. Eventually, the project seeks to establish a robust framework that can be promoted globally, focusing on teachers as lifelong learners and covering various aspects including the concept, connotation, evaluation standard, curriculum, measurement tools and more, according to Yuan Wen, president of Shanghai Normal University.

Since the release of the UNESCO's Faure Report in 1972, "lifelong learning" has been recognized as a serious concept that is a cornerstone of the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"In essence, education is about making a person that is needed by society, and in a comprehensively 'healthy' manner," Yuan said. "Such a person will be more likely to become a problem-solver rather than a problem-maker."

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