M. Veide, L. Rutka, I. Kreituss

RISEBA University (LATVIA)
Taking into account the need to improve and harmonize the quality of life of human beings and society emphasized by the European Commission working group's formulation in the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, as well as the knowledge about the potential of existential experience to shape a person’s attitude and subjective assessment of the quality of life, the aim of the study is to characterize the notions of the quality of life and the meaning of learning for people with special needs. In pedagogy the aspects of life quality related to a person’s individual attitude, understanding, inner freedom, knowledge, practical skills of one's own potential, learning from one’s experience throughout life are of importance. The person's ability to perceive, understand and shape one’s attitude towards different values throughout the lifetime determines a person’s subjective satisfaction with life, in other words, the subjective assessment of the quality of life. In the context of lifelong learning it emphasizes the topicality of such a dimension of learning as learning to live. In order to study the quality of life and the understanding of learning of people with special needs a questionnaire with 4 unfinished sentences and 1 unfinished question was designed. According to the random sample of clusters 90 respondents were invited to participate in the study – these were 29-77 years old people with special needs who have an acquired disability, that is, they have experienced their disability as a loss during their lifetime. Comparison of the obtained results with the results obtained analogously in two other groups of respondents: 20-24 year old students and 70-95 year old seniors, provided an opportunity to get an idea of the impact of the existential experience lived through by a person by differentiating it from the experience which accumulates with a person’s age. A practical study shows that health and physical activity in the lives of many people are recognized as a value only after having them partially lost. People with special needs hardly ever associate the quality of life and the meaning of learning with themselves, their self-development. They more often refer to transcendental values, responsibilities allowing them to experience their usefulness in the society, and contact with other people, especially understanding and caring about them. The comparatively large dispersion within the views expressed by people with special needs points to the experience of loss as the life experience’s skill to change perceptions in a relatively short period of time, and to the fact that the experience itself is not an attitude-forming factor.