Lifelong Learning Culture Demands “Multidimensional Literacy”

Some generations grew up hearing from their parents that if they chose to pursue a career in Medicine or Law, they would carry the "burden" of studying for the rest of their lives. Times have changed; nowadays it must not be considered a “burden.”

Today, lifelong learning is the watchword for any citizen and for the development of nations; moreover, it cannot be seen as a sacrifice, but as a mixture of need and pleasure. For instance, I write this article while watching the series Abstract on Netflix from which I am also learning more about the importance of design.

Netflix's Abstract
Netflix's Abstract

The speed of development of information technologies, added to the characteristics of impermanence, fluidity and simultaneity of the current times leave us with few stable social scenarios, whether linked to citizenship, work, or quality of life. These are the consequences of economy 4.0. In other words, everything changes quickly, and what was taken for granted today may no longer be tomorrow. Terms like “labor market” have already expired. How can we be prepared to always learn?

The term “lifelong learning” has an imprecise origin. A few decades ago, only a few careers depended on constant updating. The search for up-to-date information (this was a positive action, since nothing was so accessible), especially in the field of health, made continuing education a task almost exclusively for higher education, for groups of unionized professionals, or for those self-organized for it. “Continuing education” is an expression still in force.

However, the importance of lifelong learning is not restricted to employability. The exercise of citizenship itself (political, economic, and social rights), the enjoyment of quality of life and access to the production and consumption of culture also pass through it. The systems within a country, state, and city also tend to change quickly - constant updating makes us able to follow the development of political participation itself.

The experience of visiting a museum, for example, changes every year - and with the use of technology, this transformation will accelerate. The new forms of digital artistic production, the way to appreciate it, understand it, in addition to producing our own expression, will depend on how we all relate to the constant development of media and the circulation of information. In short, the way we see the world, and how we interfere in it, depends on the actuality and accuracy of our training.

Thus, we must view “lifelong learning” not as a formal cycle, but as a culture of learning and developing skills linked to the improvement of our social life. This experience requires the development of skills that enable us to select information, have digital fluency in research and develop autonomy for learning. In other words, educators often call this set “learning to learn.”

The informal education, that is, the media and culture, are central axes in “lifelong learning.” It is possible to learn when we browse the internet, in quick and free courses such as MOOCs - Massive Online Open Courses, watching television, cinema, theater, museums and even video games. However, the fact that information and training opportunities are readily available does not mean that the learning process is guaranteed.

Multidimensional Literacy is a key set of skills considered in the Lifelong Learning framework of the European Union. In the broad concept of reading, understanding, analysis and interaction with the world, literacy in this case is seen not only as the act of reading and writing, but also as understanding and producing images, audiovisual and other forms of expression and communication. Digital media, of course, is included here.

But, also, the European Union saves an exclusive space for “Digital” as a key concept in its framework. It comprises the ability to read, critically analyze and digitally produce for social learning and work; media and information education, possibilities for cooperative work through digital platforms, knowledge of digital security and intellectual property are part of this field.

It’s important to underline the nations that implement public policies in lifelong learning and follow those key steps are going to be miles ahead of others in terms of social, economic, and political development. The reality of work is part of this indivisible contemporary complexity. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030, half of the world's jobs will disappear due to the advancement of artificial intelligence.

The so-called A.I. is just one aspect of “lifelong learning.” New jobs, based on creativity and other characteristics that are still uniquely human, will be created.

The use of artificial intelligence algorithm is within our daily basis routine. It can open doors for new jobs, if the workers upskilling follow this demand. But, in the other hand, its ethical consequences - from bias to the complex concept of “opacity” - is the most contemporary challenge of the Media Literacy field. The concept of “free will” seems buried in past times. In this sense, Media Literacy looks central within the set of Multidimensional Literacies and connects straight to “critical thinking” in a lifelong learning culture.


Alexandre Le Voci Sayad is a journalist, educator and novelist. He works in the Media and Information Literacy field as a researcher, practitioner, advocate and professor for the last 20 years. He is currently director of ZeitGeist advisory company and international co-chairman of UNESCO MIL Alliance. Sayad is also a columnist for Revista Educação and Canal Futura website, and author of several books in the field. He hosts the TV Show "Idade Mídia” and the FM Radio Show “ABC da Notícia”. He is member of the advisory board of the Educamídia program and of the Brazilian Association of Educommunication. Currently Sayad is a researcher of Artificial Intelligence and Ethics at PUC-SP.For more, see

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