Education for Life

Education for Life

Education for life relates to important schools of thought and contributions about education, for instance, the 1996 Delors Report, Gardner (2008)’s five minds approach, the work on life-long, life-wide and life-deep learning (Banks et al., 2007, Dragovic, 2011, Skolverket, 2000), the work on transformative learning (Mezirow, 2000 and Taylor et al., 2012), and the IPTS Report “The Future of Learning” by Redecker et al., 2011. These contributions have proposed a variety of concepts that converge on the importance of an education that goes well beyond what the educational system imparts today. The emphasis is on the empowerment of the person’s full capacities as an individual and responsible citizen, for the entire life and in all circumstances. The 1996 Delors report, for instance, propounded that none of the talents in every person must be left untapped and, for this, it identified four types of learning:

  1. Learning to live together (understanding of others and their history, traditions and spiritual values);
  2. Learning to know (sufficiently broad general education with the possibility of in-depth work on a selected number of subjects);
  3. Learning to do (competence enabling people to deal with a variety of situations and to work in teams); and (
  4. Learning to be (exercise of greater independence and judgement combined with a stronger sense of personal responsibility for the attainment of common goals).

Gardner’s concept of five minds propounds that these are the minds that “people will need if they –if we- are to thrive in the world in the eras to come.” (p.1). The 5 minds are shown in Figure 1 and are:

  1. the discipline mind (expertise in at least one area, be it a specific scholarly discipline, craft, or profession;
  2. the synthesizing mind (ability to gather information from disparate sources, understanding and evaluating it objectively, and synthesizing it to communicate to others;
  3. the creative mind (capacity to propose new ideas, new ways of thinking, and to produce unexpected answers, new products and solutions;
  4. the respectful mind (capacity to distinguish and welcome the differences between individuals and human groups and of working together;
  5. the ethical mind (capacity to reflect on the nature of one’s own work and on the needs of the society within which one lives).
Figure 1 – Gardner’s 5 Minds for the 21st Century Source. Gardner (2005)


The minds, abilities, capacities, ways of thinking, etc., just identified are for life and hence for all time, places and circumstances. This is captured by the perspectives of lifelong learning, life-wide learning and life-deep learning illustrated in Figure 2. Life-long learning implies a continuing process of learning throughout our lifespan; for Banks et al (2007) “Learning that extends from our childhood into old age includes all the ways we manage interpersonal sociability, reflect our belief systems, and orient to new experiences.” (p.12)

Figure 2 – Lifelong, Lifewide and Lifedeep Learning. Source: Kjisik, 2011, p.8.

In turn, life-wide learning implies the existence of multiple but simultaneous learning spaces, it “involves a breadth of experiences, guides, and locations and includes core issues such as adversity, comfort, and support in our lives.” (Ibid.) And last, life-deep learning is concerned with the essence of human development, including spiritual and religious experiences; it “embraces religious, moral, ethical, and social values that guide what people believe, how they act, and how they judge themselves and others.” (Ibid.)

Clearly, the development of the new types of minds, abilities, capacities, ways of thinking and learning, demand a fundamental transformative process for individuals and human groups. This is the central concern of transformative learning. This perspective refers precisely to the “process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference (meaning perspective, habits of mind, mind-sets) to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they may generate beliefs, and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action.” (Mezirow, 2000, pp.7-8) In this respect, Kegan (2000) distinguishes between informational learning and transformational learning, where informational learning is about increasing the fund of knowledge, skills and resources available to an existing frame of reference; whereas transformational learning is about changes in how we know (i.e., epistemological changes), reconstructing the very frame of reference. (p.49)

These concepts, models and assumptions represent very much the frontier of education and a fundamental challenge to today’s predominant forms of education. It is essential to build on these concepts to generate an education-for-life model capable of being translated into policies and innovative practices that can gradually lead to a deep transformation of both education and our selves.



  1. Banks, J., Au, K., Ball, A., Bell, P., Gordon, E., Gutiérrez, K., Heath, S., Lee, C., Lee, Y., Mahiri, J., Nasir, N., Valdés, G. and Zhou, M., Learning In and Out of Schools in Diverse Environments. Life-Long, Life-Wide, Life-Deep, The LIFE Center (The Learning in Informal and Formal Environments Center), University of Washington, Stanford University, and SRI International, Washington, Seattle, 2007.
  2. Delors, J. and Members of the Commission, Learning. The Treasure Within, UNESCO, Paris, 1996.
  3. Dragovic, T., With Lifelong Learning to Personal and Professional Experience, 23. forum odličnosti in mojstrstva, Otočec 2011. Found at
  4. Gardner, H., 5 Minds for the Future, Harvard Business Press, Boston MA, 2008.
  5. Kegan, R., What “Form” Transforms? A Constructive-Developmental Approach to Transformative Learning. In J. Mezirow and Associates, Learning as Transformation. Critical Perpectives on a Theory in Progress, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2000, pp.35-69.
  6. Kjisik, F., Lifelong. Lifewide and Lifedeep Learning and the Autonomous Language Learner, University of Helsinki, Presentation for the IATELF Conference, Brighton, 17 April 2011.
  7. Mezirow, J., Learning to Think like an Adult. Core Concepts of Transformation Theory. In J. Mezirow and Associates, Learning as Transformation. Critical Perpectives on a Theory in Progress, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2000, pp.3-33.
  8. Mezirow, J. and Associates, Learning as Transformation. Critical Perpectives on a Theory in Progress, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2000.
  9. Redecker, C., Leis, M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P., Stoyanov S. and Hoogveld, B., The Future of Learning. Preparing for Change, JRC Scientific and Technical Reports, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), Seville, 2011.
  10. Taylor, E., Cranton, P. and Associates, The Handbook of Transformative Learning. Theory, Research, and Practice, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2012.
  11. Skolverket (Swedish National Agency for Education), Lifelong learning and lifewide learning, The National Agency for Education, Stockholm, 2000.