Lifelong learning in Asia: Eclectic concepts, rhetorical ideals and missing values: Implications for values education

Wing On LEE

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The development of lifelong learning has been phenomenal in Asian countries over the last decade. This paper aims to investigate the ideological and value implications of lifelong learning policies in Asia, by reviewing how governments argue for the need to promote lifelong learning, how it is packaged in educational reform, and how it is implemented. Several features of lifelong learning in Asia are identified. In administrative terms, lifelong learning in many Asian countries is promoted by centralised means and mainly through legislation vis-à-vis increased decentralisation in educational administration. In conceptual terms, lifelong learning is a rather eclectic concept in Asia, intertwined with such other concepts as lifelong education, continuing education and adult education. The eclectic approach can be deliberate, obviously for convenience, but more importantly for bringing about the knowledge economy in individual countries, in order to enhance competitiveness in the global economy. The eclecticism of lifelong learning in Asian countries has several ideological and values implications. It apparently combines competing values, such as humanitarian values for enhancing personal development and pragmatic values that are focused on economic development. However, a deeper look at the emphasis of lifelong learning in Asia shows that economic values tend to override humanitarian values, and such other values as democracy and participant citizenship are largely ignored in its implementation, which is often focused on specific programmes. This will have substantial implications for values education, as lifelong learning becomes a means of achieving instrumental (economic) values, rather than becoming an end in itself that would enhance personal development and empower citizens to pursue a better society in a democratic environment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2007


lifelong learning
economic value
knowledge economy
Adult Education
educational reform


Lee, W. O. (2007, May). Lifelong learning in Asia: Eclectic concepts, rhetorical ideals and missing values: Implications for values education. Paper presented at the Asian Pacific Network for Moral Education Second Regional Meeting, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.


  • Development of Disciplinary Knowledge (e.g. Sociology, Psychology)