LIFELONG LEARNING AND THE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY: A RESEARCH ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND THEIR IMPACT ON SOCIETY
Knowledge has always been a factor of production and a driver of economic and social development. Lifelong learning is a fundamental part in the society development process, where people acquire life and vocational skills to take part in their personal, vocational and professional life. The emergence of the knowledge society, building on the pervasive influence of modern information and communication technologies, is bringing about a fundamental reshaping of the global economy. In this context, this paper aims to present the results of the recent research related to 'lifelong learning' and 'knowledge society' and to analyze their impact on society. In order to achieve these objectives we proceeded to an exhaustive literature review of the concepts in peer reviewed scientific journals, books, research reports, international conferences, governmental documents and publications from important organizations such as UNESCO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe, which have put forward the idea and the establishment of lifelong learning and have contributed to its evolution.
More concretely, this paper is an attempt to define the broader context of lifelong learning and knowledge society and to identify their main development phases by presenting and comparing the functions and the role of adult education in the past and in the present. Published critique on the evolution of the term «lifelong learning» is presented from the late 60´s until today, showing the main characteristics of adult education in relation to recent literature. Morevover, we present the socioeconomic needs that led to the increasing importance of knowledge and learning in today’s society. Finally, emphasis is given not only to the several opportunities but also to the risks that derive from the evolution of lifelong learning in micro-level (individuals), meso-level (educational institutions) and macro-level (society).