The Learning Society and Learner Identities

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Learning has been an integral part of my life and as I have gone through numerous schools, my goal has been to have the best life possible. In addition, my identity as a leaner has been modeled by various life experiences and I have shifted from one environment to another cultivating the best attributes for a better and privileged life. This paper examines my history as a learner with a close examination of aspects that have contributed to my current learner identity. As such, I will delve into an exploration of my personality as a student right from childhood to adulthood. My student life trajectory exhibits an interruption of studies before completion of my undergraduate studies in order to enter the workforce. My middle class upbringing has propelled my need for further education as employment and attaining better living standards has been a priority throughout my life as a student.

Learning has been an avenue for me to gain skills that can be beneficial to me either in my work, studies and social life. According to Harrison and Paechter (2001, p.158), education is meant to empower individuals to be adequate managers in every part of their lives. It is using this concept that I will discuss my reasons for leaving school temporarily and the factors that led to my return. Indeed, Ranson (1998, p.27) asserts that there is a new world of employment in a learning society which has become more driven my information and technological advancements. This description will sum up my endeavor to gain more adept knowledge to fit the modern learning society.

My Learning History

According to Paulsen (1991), education has immense influence on all social classes found in the society. In one way or the other, learning and education in general is perceived differently across social classes. This is critical in my evaluation because my quest for education, which started when I was 6 years old, was highly influenced by my working class parents. Their hopes and dreams were to see me live a better life and they believed that education was the only stepping-stone to doing so. Hughes and Perry- Jenkins (1996) echo this sentiment by showcasing that parents influence the decisions learners make in regards to their education. Going to school in the United Arab Emirates was full of life experiences that shaped my beliefs and attitudes towards being a lifelong learner. I started out from elementary school through to preparatory and high schools. My parents were a major part of my school life as they insisted on the importance of doing well academically and prospering as a professional in the future. Their tentative care and concern made my life as a learner more fulfilling and enjoyable.

My formal education did not stop here because after taking a break from school during post high school years, I went back to undertake my undergraduate studies in the Arab Republic of Egypt. My failure to join university immediately after high school was due to the lack of funds and because of this; I was driven to work and gain more life experience. This need to earn a living was coupled with the desire to free my parents from the financial burden that accompanied my quest for higher education. I was glad when I received a scholarship to do my undergraduate studies in Egypt and I knew that the opportunity would allow me to gain the financial freedom I searched for. Ball, David and Reay (2005, p.84), stipulate that the differences among higher education students’ social classes can contribute to the complexity of their transition to this level. Nonetheless, these kinds of differences have only propelled me to learn and accrue all the benefits that come with higher education. This same mentality has made me keen to seek graduate study opportunities and the scholarship for a Masters degree in Australia has been the culmination of my dreams. I have accomplished all this through great discipline and self-initiative knowing that education is my only way of advancing in life.

School Experiences: My Learner Personality

Right from my childhood in elementary and preparatory schools, I enjoyed going to school. This was mainly because I had a curious personality and I always wanted to learn and know more about the world and the elements within it. As a child learner, I enjoyed interacting with other students through play and classroom interactions. This aspect of learning made school interesting and I have come to recognize both education and social interactions as significant elements of successful living. Kendall (2010, p.78), highlights that socialization is a process which endures throughout life. I have come to view learning in a similar manner and I value other people whether at school, in the workplace or in the rest of society. Even though I enjoyed adventure as a young learner, I was never undisciplined and was always in good terms with my teachers and the administration. In essence, I was keen to conduct myself respectfully and always followed rules and regulations. This form of discipline had been cultivated at home by my parents who taught me how to relate to others and were always strict at ensuring that I never got into trouble at school.

I studied among other subjects, Geography and History and I performed impeccably in my studies. My studies always came first in my quest for excellent academic performance. Owing to the fact that I went to school with other children who were from privileged backgrounds, I wanted to be better than them. I felt that by working hard and emerging the best student I would then gain some form of superiority over them. My achievements would demand their respect. As a high school student, I acknowledged the fact that only education could bridge the gap that was there between some of my classmates and me. Field (2002, p.51) showcases the many differences between working class individuals and those who are privileged. Underprivileged learners have access to limited resources and knowledge especially because their parents have had limited education. This form of inspiration and cultural aspect is referred to as psychological phenomena by Ratner (2000), where elements such as emotions, motivations, and personality are developed as a result of existing social differences. My social relations with learners from privileged backgrounds enhanced my motivation to work hard. I knew that the difference in social class was what prevented me from sharing my interests with other learners. However, I related very well with learners who I perceived to be of a calmer personality and whom I knew would not disrespect or underestimate me because of my background.

Other than excelling well in my subjects I enjoyed engaging in school activities and events. Competitions were a major part of building my confidence and developing a discipline of hard work. They were part of the school curriculum and were founded on the basis of developing cooperation, discipline, dedication and in harnessing students’ talents and skills. Since I had a positive relationship with all aspects of my school life, I found it easier to gain confidence in the importance of school. Teese and Polesel (2003, p.135) emphasize that without this kind of relationship, learners do not commit to learning effectively. It is this commitment that made me realize that my curiosity and fascination with geography and science was what I wanted to do in life. After high school, I majored in geography during my undergraduate studies and there I would develop the desire to be a teacher of the same subject that interested me greatly.

Stopping Completion of Studies

Right after my high school studies, I searched for employment because I wanted to earn a living and the fact that I barely had the finances to fund my undergraduate studies. I may not have had any exact skills related to the jobs I took up but I had developed interpersonal skills and a character of hard work. I worked with the same dedication and commitment as I did as a student. Even as I worked and sought to gain life experiences, I still had the ambition and kept in mind that I would eventually go back to school. Bowen (1997, p.37) estimates that the returns acquired from investing in higher education are quite high compared to other levels of education. However, the investment can be quite disconcerting as it takes a lot of finances to fund the completion of higher education.

Return to Study

Finances were my major inhibition towards completing my undergraduate studies and moving on to graduate studies. I knew that no matter how many jobs I got, it would take a long time before I could collect enough funds to further my studies. As such, the scholarships I received for both undergraduate and graduate studies contributed extensively to my return and completion of studies. Nevertheless, I still had to work part time throughout my undergraduate studies so as to finance my upkeep. Another factor that affected my return to school was my ambition and great desire to gain more knowledge in matters regarding geography.

Despite the fact that I had received scholarships, I knew that what was most important was to achieve my goals and emerge successful as a geographical expert. Undergoing higher education would harness my scientific knowledge and polish my skills. Indeed, the twenty first century calls for the creation of information based learning societies as observed by Trilling (2005, p.1). The form of learning expected in this century requires that individuals have competence and skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, self-reliance, and computing. Reay (2001, p.338) acknowledges that today’s employment opportunities are forthcoming to individuals who have higher education certification. Well aware of this fact, I knew that if I wanted the best working conditions then I would have to have all these qualifications. This realization propelled me to not only complete my undergraduate studies but also join a graduate program.

Returning to school was not as complex as I had anticipated and I managed to adapt without any major challenges. My attributes of hard work and dedication aided tremendously in my studies and with the same encouragement from my parents, I was able to achieve what I had aspired to. Even though I had to work part time, I still kept up with my studies and with the guidance of exemplary teachers, who eventually became my role models; I was able to balance my studies with employment. In addition to this, I developed great relationships and friendships with my classmates and offered assistance to those who needed help with their studies.

Target of Completion

I graduated from the faculty of Arts with a major in geography and it is then that I sought formal employment as a geography teacher. Apart from expanding my knowledge base, I wanted to be able to get an impressive job that would elevate my status in society. As a teacher, I provided services to the society and guided learners towards attaining competent education. Social capital is relevant in this context as I gained knowledge through higher education and with the guidance of teachers, parents, and other factors I became competent enough to use my skills in benefiting others in the society. Balatti and Falk (2002, p. 283), illustrate that education even though acquired by an individual can be redirected to benefit other individuals or groups of people. In my case, teaching was fulfilling as I was able to transfer my skills to others and contributed greatly to the development of the society.

Apart from being of help to the society, my most important aim of completing both my undergraduate and graduate studies was to have a better life. I wanted to get employment that paid well and that would help me advance both socially and economically. Becker (1993) highlights that in developing human capital; education and training are the most critical elements (p.17). Higher education provides better opportunities for individuals to grow and have better lives in terms of economic and social returns. In fact, in almost all instances earnings of highly educated individuals are always higher than for those who are not. Both human and social capital is linked to learning societies. It is through social capital that I have acquired education right from elementary to graduate school. If it were not for my teachers, parents and other players in the society I would not have experienced learning. On the other hand, human capital must be built in order to develop social capital and these two are linked by education and the learning process.

I am currently finishing my graduate studies in training and development. The modern world calls for constant learning and acquisition of knowledge and this has kept me willing to engage in learning and interacting within the learning society. Furthermore, there is the need to gain up to date skills that will keep me at par with current global employment trends. Considering this, I am dedicated to lifelong learning that will allow me to not only live the life I have always wanted but to also move up the social class ladder. Lack of adequate knowledge is what plagues the middle class making them inept at devising ways of fostering better living conditions. Therefore, with knowledge I am guaranteed a more privileged life.

Conclusion

My learning history has been modeled by numerous factors that include my middle class background, my parents, and interactions with privileged students, my ambitions, and self-initiative. Therefore, as I went through elementary, preparatory and high schools I developed a deeper thirst for knowledge and appreciation of what having better education meant in life. In particular, my parents played a major role in harnessing skills that were crucial for my academic success. As a result, I developed discipline and cultivated a culture of hard work that has been significantly relevant throughout my life. My break from school and the temporary halting of my undergraduate studies was basically due to a characteristic element of my underprivileged background. However, with scholarships I have overcome this barrier and with intense dedication and commitment to having a better life I have finished part of my higher education. As a geography teacher, I was able to play a role in society building and became a part of the very valuable social capital.

My learning is still ongoing, I am currently engaging in graduate studies, and I believe that the future will also be full of more learning opportunities. I am a lifelong learner and I will in the future utilize technology in form of online learning to further my knowledge. Furthermore, with the level of competence and expertise that I have acquired through my studies, I am bound to accrue attractive benefits and leave a prosperous life. As a member of the learning society, I now aim at enlightening society on the significance of education and prove to be a role model for young people. At this juncture, my educational journey has been fruitful and it will only get better in the future.

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