Women Lifelong Learning

Women Lifelong Learning: The case of Tobago

Since childhood I had a great interest in assisting others to achieve. At the age of 10, I assisted my best friend, who had the ADHD condition and had failed the local public library’s admission test-a reading test- thrice, to obtain her library card. I helped others with the same problem of failing reading tests that served as admission tests in the local library. The assistance proved essential for my classmates’ reading and academic success, promoting my proud feeling for their achievements and my contributions. This experience motivated me further and I became a Sunday school teacher in the Good wood Methodist Church These experiences influenced a my professional aspiration of pursuing the career of in teaching.
In particular, adult learning and by extension, lifelong learning have piqued my interest. Lifelong learning usually provides an opportunity for self-motivated voluntary pursuit of knowledge in an ongoing manner, for the purposes of either personal or professional growth. The process itself usually enhances active citizenship, personal development, employability, competitiveness, and social inclusion. Educational systems therefore, need to be structured in a way that encourages lifelong learning, and the acquisition of knowledge that is applicable to real life situations. However, Tobago’s educational systems reflect an incapacity and inability to anchor lifelong learning, more so for the women; an issue that is of great concern, considering the significant number of unemployed women in the country. In view of the fact that community development usually begins with effective social action, integral to which is the acquisition of the necessary knowledge. Effective lifelong learning can no doubt go a long way towards helping solve a number of the significant social problems facing women in Trinidad and Tobago. A study by Scott and Simon (2011) even goes as far as to establish a causal correlation between women unemployment and the rates of HIV/AIDS. It is, therefore, plausible to argue that improving the capacity of the educational system in Trinidad and Tobago to anchor lifelong learning could not only improve the employability, social inclusion, active citizenship, competitiveness and personal development of women in Tobago, but it would also go a long way towards helping eliminate some of the many social ills faced by a number of them. My application for admission into your institute’s program, was based on the personal belief and confidence that it not only fits my personality, personal values, experience, and professional objectives, but that it also provides an opportunity to gain sufficient knowledge to help in the building of adequate capacity within the Tobago educational system. As a female educator, my main motivation is to improve the capacity of fellow women within Trinidad and Tobago, the “Adult Education and Community Development” program, offers an opportunity to further improve my own capacity to catalyze and contribute not just to lifelong learning, but also to the improvement of the Tobago educational system in general. By combining the newly learnt skills with the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the past 25 years, I am confident that I will be able to significantly improve the adoption of lifelong learning to the benefit of unemployed women in Tobago. The research study will aim at answering three pertinent questions:
i) What are the current inadequacies in the educational system of Trinidad and Tobago that are hindering the education and empowerment of women?
ii) What are the effects of the educational system’s inability and incapacity to anchor lifelong learning?
iii) How would my participation in the Ontario Institute’s Adult Education and Community Development program, better equip me to help address the inadequacies within the educational system?
According to the World Bank, the emergence of the global knowledge economy has resulted in a premium being put on learning, a situation even more true to the case of Tobago. Indeed, economic growth and development is increasingly being linked to education and knowledge. As such, lifelong learning and the provision of practical knowledge is becoming more and more of a necessity, more so with the need to apply new technologies, which have serious implications on how individual’s take up new knowledge, or apply the knowledge gained. The “Adult Education and Community Development” program fits into the profile of what is required for lifelong learning, which goes beyond simple formal schooling, education and training. By enrolling into the program, I would not only be preparing myself, and enhancing my capacity to help facilitate lifelong learning in Trinidad and Tobago, but would also be participating in a process that better equips me to address problems in Tobago’s educational system. True to my philosophy of personal development and career growth, participation in the program would embody the mantra of learning throughout an individual’s lifecycle, as it would demonstrate that even after a 25 year educational career I am still interested in learning and applying new knowledge, implying that learning must be a continuous process. I have confidence that the program presents the opportunity to address the areas of my deficiency, in terms of capacity and knowledge with the potential to improve my professionalism, value, and capabilities in teaching. My ambition is to integrate my previous experience and knowledge, including that from my BSc degree in Management and Economics from the University of The West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, and Masters in Educational Psychology from Andrews University, USA, with that from the program, to form a strong platform for the realization of my ambition. My ambition is to motivate and improve every individual’s educational achievements and effective performance. My degree qualifications have contributed to my competences in the administration of human and physical resources, project planning and oversight, curriculum development, and classroom management for effective teaching value. Such competence is evident in my contribution to the Anglican Primary Schools Religious Education Syllabus and the Education Ministry’s Creative Writing and Science syllabi.
Using these contributions as a platform, as well as the projected new knowledge to be gained through participation in the program, I believe I will be in a very good position to help women from Tobago realize their potential through lifelong learning and practical education. Through research, it is clear that anchoring lifelong learning must begin with a number of policy changes. A shift in emphasis from traditional formal education structures to learning and meeting learning needs of the population must occur for the anchoring of lifelong learning to take place effectively. Key to this shift in focus would be ensuring the participation of the essential players in the educational sector: such as parents, teachers, employers, government and perhaps most importantly, the learners themselves. As an educator, I already have a good understanding of policy issues in Tobago, and feel quite confident that following my completion of the program, I will be in a very good position to be able to help carry out reforms within the educational system, that anchor lifelong learning, starting with adult education focusing on women. One of the biggest priorities when it comes to anchoring lifelong learning within Tobago, would be fostering a change in attitude, as well as a complete change in focus, from the structures currently in place within the education sector, to meeting the needs of the population. One of the key aspects of lifelong learning and by extension adult learning is providing knowledge that helps individuals deal with problems they are currently facing, rather than simply providing unhelpful abstract ideas.
Adult learning and lifelong learning would no doubt enhance the capacity of women in Tobago to deal with issues they face in their day to day life. One of the major areas that lifelong learning is bound to improve is no doubt going to be that of unemployment, particularly for women. By facilitating the gaining of practical and helpful skills and knowledge, lifelong learning is bound to improve the employability of women, empowering them financially, and as a result reducing their chances of engaging in behaviors and practices that may put them at an increased risk of contracting HIV. By involving employers in curriculum development, as well as in the anchoring of lifelong learning, the ministry of education will be able to institute measures that promote learning that caters to the needs of the employers, fostering further economic growth. This interest on the subject was motivated in a huge part, by the findings of the UNESCO Institute for Education in Hamburg, especially by findings on women as lifelong learners. Through the study, I hope to be able to provide further evidence proving the potential worth of anchoring lifelong learning in any educational system.
A basic attribute of my personality and philosophy, is to seek the improvement of others’ lives involves my private idea of self-actualization. My idea of self-actualization encompasses the provision of help for others to apply their talents and abilities effectively and achieve their full potential. In my professional life, I have practiced teaching, which I consider a noble and intellectually-demanding career, for 25 years. I have sought educational equitability in elementary school education for the wider community, through striving to include all children in the process of acquiring education. I have also, in my career, sought to help children to understand the ethos and purpose of education in their lives, in an attempt to create a durable desire to learn and develop in their lives. I find my inspiration and assistance of others to search and acquire knowledge that benefits their lives and improves their wellbeing a fulfilling experience: it promotes and fulfills the quest to comprehend humanity and the community around me competently, at a personal level. In my present responsibilities as a Head of Department in my grade, my primary role involves planning the learning program and activities to ensure the development of knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes of students and monitor and appraise instructors’ performances. I also have obligations to oversee the activities and programs of individuals undergoing teacher-training and teaching practice and initiate and supervise co-curricular activities. These responsibilities involve the objective of securing suitable environment and instruction resources for the academic and physical development of students. It involves the responsibility to ascertain the availability and effective use of competent resources for productive student’s development.
I therefore, chose Ontario Institute’s Adult Education and Community Development program, because it provides an effective opportunity to improve the value of my teaching career. Dr. Blair Mascall and Dr. Angela Miles are the two faculty members whose research interest and publications relate to my anticipated study area. The two would be excellent and relevant advisors in my work. Dr. Mascall’s work and research interests dovetail quite nicely with my intended research. His work on leadership and change, as well as on the implementation and institution of changes from positions of leadership, will no doubt help in the process of improving the capacity and capability of the educational system in Tobago. I also find the work of Dr. Miles quite interesting, as it captures the essence of why I opted to pursue a career in education, not just because of her feminist approach and theory, but also due to her work in community organization, education and development. I believe that participation in the program shall promote the value of my involvement in education environments, for students and the society’s benefits. Under the program I shall address the deficiencies and gaps in my experience, capacities, and skills, promoting my resourcefulness in the teaching profession. I hope that the program shall result in my readiness and competence to teach in a university environment in Trinidad and Tobago, along with an opportunity to advise the government effectively on educational policies that generate and preserve competent human resources for social development. I aspire to start a communication research institute in Tobago; an ambition that I believe will be closer to fulfillment after my successful completion of the Institute’s program. I hope to utilize the opportunity to achieve a capacity to influence the knowledge and capabilities of each person that I interact with positively, hence promoting their wellbeing and that of the society. In particular while at OISE, I intend to pursue the following courses: Comparative, International and development education, Advanced Issues in Educational Policy Analysis, Counseling Psychology and the Principles of Anti racism Education. These courses, I believe, will better equip me with the skills necessary to realize the changes I would want to strive for within the educational sector in Trinidad and Tobago. Outside the department, I am interested in working with other faculty on the Sociology of Education, Principles of Anti Racism Education and Counseling Psychology from the department of Humanities Social Sciences and Social Justice Education (HSSSJE)
Ontario Institute’s Adult Education and Community Development program, is therefore, a critical step towards helping members of my community achieve a better understanding of the causes of problems currently facing women in Tobago. It also provides an opportunity to learn how to integrate adult education into lifelong learning, ensuring better preparation of the community.

Scott, E. & Simon, T. (2011). Poverty, Employment and HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago. International Journal of Business and Social Science 2(16), 38-46.
UNESCO Institute for Learning (2002). Integrating Lifelong Learning Perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/education/uie/pdf/uiestud36.pdf

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