Adults learning new skills as

The tutor for the violin class (right) at the WEA adult learning centre, in Adelaide, explaining a few things on reading music while playing the instrument. – Picture by THOMAS HUKAHU

LEARNING does not stop.
You’ve heard that before, right?
Or, have you heard that today many organisations and institutions are promoting the concept of lifelong learning?
But how many people actively learn as they grow older?
Or, how many will eagerly learn a new set of skills to prepare for a new job?
It takes some courage
For the past few weeks, I have discussed in Weekender some themes in education and related to younger children.
This week, I want to discuss a few things about learning new skills as adults. It takes a certain amount of courage to take a step forward and learn something completely new, especially if you are an adult and are seasoned in your profession.
You have read stories of elderly people in different countries going back to school to complete primary education, and that takes courage to do so.
It also takes a great deal of preparation knowing that when the student comes home after a day of learning, there is enough firewood for the stove and there is food to cook. And that routine will continue for 40 or more weeks in the year.
There is another side of this need for adults to be courageous and learn something new.
Decades ago, I heard stories of PhD graduates who do not have jobs because their targeted position is not on offer so they are just living in a house and depending on someone else to feed them.
I have wondered then if anyone had suggested to them to try their luck in a completely different field than what they were trained to do so that they can feed themselves.
But then, this demands a new way of thinking, something that most people are not ready to take on.
It will take courage too, to start as a beginner in a completely new field while already being a master in a different discipline.
Changing times demand that adults learn new skills
The fact is that with technology changing rapidly nowadays and now the pandemic, professionals need to learn new skills, often those that are different from what they learned in university or college.
It is also true that some adults are now considered redundant because their skills are outdated, and if they are not ready to learn new stuff they can find themselves on the street.
I remember back in 2000 when computers, PCs actually, were brought to the school I was at, the older teachers were tutored by younger staff members to navigate through the different Microsoft apps to write tests or enter marks of students for assessment records.
It was a sight to behold, seeing the older teachers working slowly to gain a new set of skills.
Moreover, for others like me, who had their own personal typewriters to type tests, we were now blessed with floppy disks to store copies of everything that we produced on the PCs.
Of course, nowadays, floppy disks are also obsolete.
So, all the teachers then learned to move with the times and take on new skills to continue our tasks of teaching and assessing students.
Adults today must be aware of the need to do so. My experience with language learning. Some of the tips and pointers made in this article took form when I started taking classes in languages when I was already an adult and quite seasoned in my profession.
Over the years, I have taken some formal classes in French and Japanese, and informally been taught Motu by my late stepmother. I started taking French with Alliance Française de Port Moresby when I was in my early 30s and continued with it at different stages of my life.
My French to date is nothing sophisticated, but it is enough to help me get information from anyone in any French-speaking state here in the Pacific, or elsewhere in the world. I am confident of that.
Additionally, I often get into conversations with francophones when I hear them speaking the language anywhere that I may be at, whether in Australia or the United Kingdom.
I learned from studying French formally that the first few weeks in learning the subject are going to be tough because the phonetics of the language are unique, certain sounds in the language are peculiar to itself.
You cannot substitute such sounds with your English or Tok Pisin sounds.
You’ve got to work hard to get them right. And most importantly: It takes time, a lot of time.
So, yes, it takes courage to push through despite the difficulties faced.
The basic greeting words can be learned within two weeks, however to get other concepts right you may have to take a 10-week course, go for a break and then come again to start another 10-week course.
Most people are not prepared to do that and therefore they see themselves as being incapable of mastering the basics in the subject.
Sometimes adult learners have to remind themselves that learning can take time, and there will be hurdles.
Being last in the class
Before I give you another example of me learning new skills, or polishing my long-forgotten ones, let me make an important point.
If you are an adult and you are joining a new cohort of students to learn about a new subject, it can be an uphill challenge, yet not impossible to achieve.
You will make mistakes, be sure of that. Sometimes you will make mistakes as if you are a kid and are entering a classroom for the first time.
And yes, you can be at the bottom of the class, but don’t be too harsh on yourself.
Take it lightly and continue to push through day after day, week after week.
Personally, I have been last in the class in some cases but I knew that I had to learn the skills or knowledge taught in that subject or course that I signed up for.
Personally, the best courses for me, a working professional, are short courses, courses that last for 8-10 weeks.
And I have often signed up for such courses at different institutes to learn skills in languages and music, two of my interest areas outside of my professional life.
For adults, such classes may not require an assessment and therefore you should not stress yourself about it, and yet put in the effort as you progress.
Quitting my violin class
Sometimes, we should allow ourselves to quit a class if we are not progressing well.
That is not to say we quit the class and never return to it later.
No, we may have to quit because the current time may not be the best time to learn that subject.
Last week I quit my violin class at the WEA Learning Centre here in Adelaide, South Australia.
(WEA stands for Workers Educational Association and it was formed originally more than 100 years ago with the aim of upgrading the knowledge and skills of working people who did not complete college or university programmes.)
Before that I completed an eight-week WEA course on sight-reading piano at the same institute, something that I last did three decades ago.
However, after only two weeks with the eight-week violin program, I decided to forgo the rest of the class for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I had to concentrate on my last academic paper, a project and essay that I have to hand in this month as a postgraduate student.
I do not want to use up my time trying to practise scales on the four strings of the violin instead of tidying up my project and ensuring my essay of 8000 words is well written.
Secondly, I quit because I was last in the class.
That sounds weird? No, the class was actually for those continuing from another beginners’ class that was run previously but I had signed up thinking my violin skills from Grade 12 were still intact.
Sadly, that was not the case.
The skills on the violin have almost disappeared and I had to relearn the basics again, while the rest of the students were moving on to something else.
I quit because I did not want to hold back the class.
I am trained as an educator, so I know what that means for the class.
The good thing though is I have the violin with me, one I hired for three months and will work at my own pace after I submit my papers, and by following the book that we used in the music class.
So, the last student in class is not done yet.
Point: Never give up easily. Never underestimate yourself too.
As I was telling my friends about this, I also mentioned that “Rome was not built in a day”.

The day I came to know Somare

The author is a Printing and Graphic Arts Student at Port Moresby Technical College. This is one of his works.

GROWING up in a village where there’s not much political news, as little children we had no idea what was going on or going to happen next.
All we had in mind was playing home games every afternoon and going to school every morning. To be honest I didn’t know my prime minister during that time as a seven-year-old home scholar in 2004.
My pre-school days were awesome as I got to learn ABC and 123 for the first time in my life and it really pushed me to learn more but things didn’t work out the way I thought because we were still at the elementary level of education.
In 2007 I was enrolled at Nangananga Primary School where I started doing Grade 3. One thing I realised was the increase of number of exercise books that every student must have compared to the pre-school days where we have only two exercise books which is Maths and English.
While in Primary I loved all subjects except for Maths. I don’t know why but this is me; every time we had maths class I was always blank in mind. I tried my best sometimes.
Somehow I performed really well in Grade 3 grabbing the first prizes in Making A Living, English, Social Science and Arts – and scoring a D grade in maths.
I am much into Social Science and English and that was how I first heard the name Michael Thomas Somare. That was in 2008. Here is the story.
One afternoon our headmaster walked into the classroom saying: “Before you go home just one homework. Find out who our Prime Minister is and also make an atempt to know the names of his ministers.
“Whoever gives the correct answers, will be rewarded with stationaries.”
On my way home I thought of my aunt who is married to the elder brother of Paul Tiensten, then Member for Pomio and Minister for National Planning under the Somare-Abal Cabinet. I didn’t know that.
The first thing I did at home was ask my dad to catch a late PMV from Nangananga Village to Rabaul town to see my aunt. Fortunately, dad had to leave for Rabaul that afternoon.
All the information was written down that same afternoon by my uncle. It was already dark so they dropped off dad at home with the information.
To cut this story short I walked to school the next morning like a bright student with my school uniform tucked in. The moment has come and the principal asked the question. I pretended to be lost. Because the headmaster was from Pomio, he asked, the member for Pomio was. I answered, “Paul Tiensten”. The headmaster said, “Keep standing Michael. He is the minister for what?” Me: National Planning. “Under which government?” Me: Somare Abal-Government. “So who is our current Prime Minister? Me: Sir Michael Somare.
My classmates were shocked when I gave my answers just like that. There was a round of applause and I was in cloud nine by then.
The headmaster went to the staff room, got a box of stationeries and presented it to me in front of my classmates.
I shared the stationeries with all my classmates.
And that was the day I came to know Sir Michael Somare. From that day onwards I remember all the ministers’ names and their portfolios with the Prime Minister himself.
In 2008 Sir Michael was the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and his deputy was Sam Abal.
It pays to know your prime minister and ministers .