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Now that the kids are settled in school, it’s time to think of the rest of us. The calendar tells us that January is the start of a new year but it’s really fall that offers the best chance for a fresh start. That’s especially true when it comes to education.

For anyone who considered school to be a great experience, September was always an exciting time of transition. It’s when we made significant life changes such as moving from one level of education to another – elementary to junior high – or the even more dramatic changes that came when we left high school and entered the adult world of university.

It would be great if we used this time of year to remind ourselves that we need to be lifelong learners and, no matter our age, adopted the attitude that curiosity is the one human attribute that should always be indulged and stimulated.

It’s not just for personal growth that we should never cease to be students. It’s also for our own ongoing relevance in an ever-changing and evolving world. Making the decision to pursue learning throughout our lives can go a long way toward ensuring we always have opportunity in front of us and the capability to meet any new challenge.

The best thing about a commitment to lifelong learning is that there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. It could be in a formal setting of university or community college. It could mean exploring continuing education classes or enrolling in vocational school. But it could also mean something as simple as going online and researching a topic of interest.

Anyone who feels their life situation is not ideal, who feels their skill-set limits the jobs to which they can aspire, should never allow themselves to be passed over because they lack the formal training demanded by employers. We have it within our power to change our circumstances through the acquisition of new skills. And that makes us fairly unique amongst all the species of life on Earth.

Governments at all levels and in all jurisdictions need to recognize that ongoing education for citizens of all ages is in the best interests of the nation. That means governments should assist those who want to improve their station, move to a higher paying job or simply maintain the competencies necessary to perform in their current capacity as the technological realities around us change with unprecedented speed.

In his lead-up to the Liberal’s second federal budget, tabled earlier this year, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said one way to deal with the stress engendered by the pace of technological change, and the seemingly never-ending need for new skills would be a culture of lifelong learning, helping people develop the skills they need at every stage of their life to succeed in the new economy.

He’s got that right. Spending to invest in human capital and foster potential for growth and self-empowerment is critical to maintaining Canada’s place in the global economy.

But let’s not lose sight of education as a treasure that goes far beyond its utilitarian application to our working lives. Let’s pursue lifelong learning for the sake of widening our horizons and being more implicated individuals in the endless richness of life.

Every year at this time, we should seek ways to ensure we’re taking advantage of the endless avenues of inquiry or enjoyment that learning can bring. Whether that means studying a new language or pursuing a passion for a creative outlet we may have abandoned from our youth, the decision to not remain stagnant and to constantly remake ourselves in whatever image we desire should not end just because we’ve left school.

Let’s hear the ringing of the school bells this year as a reminder that our education should last a lifetime.

Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.

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