Inspiring experiences spark learning quest

April 8, 2005

What inspires people to become lifelong learners? The answer, according to Scotland's parliamentarians, ranges from Shakespeare and going to sea to business educator Eli Goldratt and a visit to the former headquarters of the East German Stasi.

The Open University in Scotland has just conducted a survey of MSPs as part of its campaign to encourage more Scots to participate in lifelong learning. MSPs were asked what they felt learning had done for them. Many described it as a life-changing opportunity with the power to open new horizons and improve understanding of the problems other people faced.

Richard Baker, a Labour MSP, said his most inspirational learning experience had been studying Shakespeare and film noir during his English literature degree. It helped him to analyse texts and develop communications skills.

Phil Gallie, a Conservative MSP, said going to sea as an apprentice and experiencing real life issues fostered his love of learning. Jim Mather, a Scottish Nationalist MSP, was inspired by reading the works of educator, scientist and business guru Eli Goldratt, which convinced him that the knowledge economy was here to stay.

Jeremy Purvis, a Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP, visited the former East Germany while a student and met former prisoners arrested and tortured for campaigning for democracy. "It made me more aware of the fragility of democracy and the importance of cherishing it," he said.

Andrew Welsh, SNP MSP, was most inspired by studying for a degree as a mature student. He had the following advice for potential learners: "The important thing is to start at the appropriate level in a subject you enjoy, learn at a suitable pace and develop study habits."

He has just completed an OU diploma in French and is now studying Chinese.

Learning another language was the first choice of study subject for MSPs if they had all the time in the world. Another favourite was learning to play the piano.

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