Half of the world’s population already live in cities.
For example, in Finland it is estimated that in 30 years there will only be three regions in which the population will be growing, and the rest of the country will be suffering the reverse effects of urbanisation – a shrinking population. Globally, the number of cities with more than 10 million inhabitants is rising steadily.
As people all around the world look for a better life and think that urban regions may provide a better future, the flow of people to urban regions is accelerating. And this is exactly what cities may provide: a wide selection of opportunities to live a better life.
Those who live in remote regions with fewer and fewer opportunities to work, learn, engage in sports or enjoy cultural events.
However, the cities too face challenges, including pollution, energy consumption, traffic jams, social problems, etc.
In addition to these effects that affect urban regions, we should remember those who live in remote regions with fewer and fewer opportunities to work, learn, engage in sports or enjoy cultural events, among other things.
COULD LIFELONG LEARNING THEREFORE HAVE A ROLE in solving the challenges caused by urbanisation?
My answer is yes. My background is in economics and business administration, so it has been interesting to explore the kind of findings that economists have made on urbanisation.
As early as 130 years ago, a British economist Alfred Marshall argued that a dense population in urban regions facilitates the flow of ideas. Such density provides people with opportunities to interact, share ideas and learn.
Then, about 100 years later, an American economist Robert Lucas argued that the human capital in cities is the base for the creativity of the regions.
It is time for the learning providers and the cities to begin seeing cities as learning environments and reaping the benefits of this.
The same discussion was made famous by Richard Florida, an American urban scientist, when he found that a high concentration of the so-called ‘creative class’ (a diverse population of technology workers, artist, musicians, etc.) gives rise to a higher level of economic development.
Interestingly, another American economist Edvard Glaeser argues that cities exist partly because they facilitate learning between people by providing them with opportunities to interact with each other.
NOW, AS ECONOMISTS HAVE FOUND that learning is one of the reasons why urban regions exist, it is time for the learning providers and the cities to begin seeing cities as learning environments and reaping the benefits of this.
In urban regions, formal, non-formal and informal learning may provide opportunities for all the citizens to learn. For example, in Finland our capital Helsinki has stated in its strategy that the whole city should be utilised as a place for learning for people of all ages.
The creation of new learning opportunities in the cities should also include the idea that the negative effects of urbanisation can be solved.
Urbanisation should be considered an opportunity to create a new form of learning society.
Thus, learning may lead to a deeper understanding of how to solve major challenges such as pollution, social exclusion and housing.
Finally, the participation of those who live in remote areas is important. Luckily, digitalisation provides us with the tools to include all citizens in common interaction and learning.
Urbanisation should therefore be considered an opportunity to create a new form of learning society in which formal, non-formal and informal learning lead to a better life for all of us.