I'm just curious to know whether this is a normal thing
Unfortunately, yes. Companies of course do their best to optimize the money spent to their time-paid employees. Employees are paid for doing work, but there is a deviated company culture almost everywhere such as working does not include learning, or it's just a subtle way to increase work value by not
investing spending money.
I struck investing because learning is an investment. Companies must use money to create additional value by having more educated developers.
But, in the end, most (all??) software companies want their developers to finish the project ASAP, customer to sign off UAT and developers to move on another project. This explains their reluctance to pay learning hours.
what's a good way to deal with such a situation?
The soft and the hard mode.
Hard mode (the way the worker union said) is to quit at 6 PM or whatever the clock-out time is, and be firm on that. Ignoring the boss's requests or asking for overtime. Confront with the boss demanding to do the learning during work hours and not doing coding during such time.
There is a con: the boss may fire the employee if the contract allows. The employee will never get a raise, promotion or such, but will likely keep the job. This kind of approach creates a negative interaction and obviously the boss will never bet on the employee.
Soft mode should be some sort of a mutual deal. It strongly depends on the employee's negotiational abilities.
I'd suggest the employee to set limits, but accept some compromise. After all, learning is a good thing for the employee themselves!!!
One could, for example, accept to read a few articles in the free time, after dinner or in some rainy weekend. Few is important, because boundaries between work and personal life must exist and should be reasonable. A programmer could try to read articles as soon as they approach a complex problem, during work hours, and learn something new.
Another aspect is rewarding. Employee may want to discuss with the boss whether the learning path can lead to a better annual review, so it could be worth investing some personal time in one's self.