When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant
trees. When planning for life, train and educate people." Chinese proverb:
Guanzi (c. 645BC)
The Feira European Council in June 2000 asked the Member States, the Council
and the Commission, within their areas of competence, to “identify coherent
strategies and practical measures with a view to fostering lifelong learning
for all”. This mandate confirms lifelong learning as a key element of
the strategy, devised at Lisbon, to make Europe the most competitive and
dynamic knowledge-based society in the world.
People are at the heart of this Communication. Over 12,000 citizens contributed
to the consultation which was initiated by the Commission’s Memorandum
on Lifelong Learning, issued in November of last year. The feedback highlighted
only too clearly the enormity of the challenges ahead. Economic and social
changes associated with the transition to a knowledge-based society present
the European Union and its citizens with both benefits – in terms of increased
opportunities for communication, travel and employment, and risks – not
least relating to higher levels of inequality and social exclusion. The
scale of such changes calls for a radical new approach to education and
training. Moreover, the current uncertain economic climate places renewed
emphasis and importance on lifelong learning. Traditional policies and
institutions are increasingly ill-equipped to empower citizens for actively
dealing with the consequences of globalisation, demographic change, digital
technology and environmental damage. Yet people, their knowledge and competences
are the key to Europe’s future.
A European area of lifelong learning
This Communication contributes to the establishment of a European
area of lifelong learning, the aims of which are both to empower citizens
to move freely between learning settings, jobs, regions and countries,
making the most of their knowledge and competences, and to meet the goals
and ambitions of the European Union and the candidate countries to be
more prosperous, inclusive, tolerant and democratic.
This development will be facilitated by bringing together within a lifelong
learning framework education and training, and important elements of existing
European level processes, strategies and plans concerned with youth, employment,
social inclusion, and research policy. This does not imply a new process,
nor can it involve the harmonisation of laws and regulations. Rather,
it calls for more coherent and economical use of existing instruments
and resources, including through the use of the open method of coordination.
In order to achieve the Lisbon aim of a knowledge-based society, close
links will be established between the European area of lifelong learning
and the European research area, particularly with a view to raising the
interest of young people in science and technology careers.
What is lifelong learning?
Responses to the consultation on the Memorandum called for a broad definition
of lifelong learning that is not limited to a purely economic outlook
or just to learning for adults. In addition to the emphasis it places
on learning from pre-school to post-retirement, lifelong learning should
encompass the whole spectrum of formal, non-formal and informal learning.
The consultation also highlighted the objectives of learning, including
active citizenship, personal fulfilment and social inclusion, as well
as employment-related aspects. The principles which underpin lifelong
learning and guide its effective implementation emphasise the centrality
of the learner, the importance of equal opportunities and the quality
and relevance of learning opportunities.
Coherent and comprehensive lifelong learning strategies
Member States agreed at the Feira European Council, and in the context
of the European Employment Strategy, to develop and implement coherent
and comprehensive strategies for lifelong learning. The building blocks
of such strategies are set out here in order to assist Member States and
actors at all levels. The implication of the building blocks is a gradual
integration of formal learning environments with a view to making quality
learning opportunities accessible for all, on an ongoing basis. The clear
message is that traditional systems must be transformed to become much
more open and flexible, so that learners can have individual learning
pathways, suitable to their needs and interests, and thus genuinely take
advantage of equal opportunities throughout their lives. The building
blocks are consistent with the lifelong learning assessment criteria used
in the Joint Employment Report 2001.
A partnership approach is stipulated as the first building block. All
relevant actors, in and outside the formal systems, must collaborate for
strategies to work ‘on the ground’. Gaining insight into the needs of
the learner, or the potential learner, along with learning needs of organisations,
communities, wider society and the labour market is the next step. Adequate
resourcing, in terms of financing and the effective and transparent allocation
of resources, can then be addressed. The analysis then proceeds to how
to match learning opportunities to learners’ needs and interests and how
to facilitate access by developing the supply side to enable learning
by anyone, anywhere, at any time. There is a clear need here for the formal
sector to recognise and value non-formal and informal learning. Creating
a culture of learning depends ultimately on increasing learning opportunities,
raising participation levels and stimulating demand for learning. Finally,
mechanisms for quality assurance, evaluation and monitoring are suggested,
with a view to striving for excellence on an ongoing basis.
Priorities for action
Action is proposed which builds on the European dimension to lifelong
learning, while also supporting strategies at all levels. The priorities
are presented under the six key messages, which were the basis of, and
endorsed by, the European-wide consultation.
A comprehensive new European approach to valuing learning is seen as a
pre-requisite for the area of lifelong learning, building on the existing
right of free movement within the EU. Proposals focus on the identification,
assessment and recognition of non-formal and informal learning as well
as on the transfer and mutual recognition of formal certificates and diplomas.
Information, guidance and counselling is addressed mainly at European
level, with proposals that aim at facilitating access to learning through
the availability of quality guidance services.
Investing time and money in learning, particularly in the context of the
call for Member States to raise overall levels of investment in education
and training in the Lisbon conclusions and in the European Employment
Strategy, is a condition of bringing about the kind of fundamental changes
which lifelong learning implies. There are no easy solutions to how this
is to be achieved. Increased investment and targeted funding are called
for, along with mechanisms for increasing private investment. Proposals
to encourage and support learning communities, cities and regions as well
as enabling workplaces to become learning organisations are seen as key
ways to bring learning and learners closer together. Importance is also
attached to the development of local learning centres.
Complementing the work initiated at Lisbon and Stockholm on the ‘new’
basic skills, proposals are developed to ensure that the foundations of
lifelong learning are accessible to all citizens, at all stages of their
lives and not just within compulsory education. Finally, proposals for
innovative pedagogy address the shift in emphasis from knowledge acquisition
to competence development, and the new roles for teachers and learners
that this implies.
Driving forward the agenda
All actors are invited to work in partnership to drive forward the agenda:
the Commission and the other European Institutions, the Member States,
the EEA and candidate countries, the social partners, NGOs and international
organisations (e.g. the Council of Europe, OECD, UNESCO). Implementation
will be through existing processes, programmes and instruments, taken
forward within the framework of lifelong learning. This framework will
support the exchange of good practice and experience and thus the identification
of shared problems, ideas and priorities. To facilitate this, the Commission
will develop a database on good practice, information and experience concerning
lifelong learning at all levels.
The Follow-up to the Report on the Concrete Objectives of Education and
Training Systems will be one of the main means for cooperation in this
field, while the European Employment Strategy will continue to focus on
the employment-related aspects of lifelong learning. The Community programmes
– Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and Youth – will be strengthened in the
light of this Communication. Increasing the potential of the European
Social Fund (ESF) and the ESF Community Initiative EQUAL to support implementation
will also be examined.
Progress will be measured and monitored through the use of a limited number
of indicators – those in existence or development, as well as a small
number of new indicators. Implementation will also be overseen by networks
and structures: those already established, for example, as part of the
consultation process, and a high level group of representatives of Ministries
bearing the main responsibility for lifelong learning. This group will
help to ensure the complementarity of measures developed in the field
of lifelong learning, including the implementation of the work programme
for the Follow-up of the Report on the Concrete Objectives of Education
and Training Systems, with related processes, strategies and plans at
European level. The next steps will be an endorsement of the main principles
and proposals by the Council (Education and Youth Council, and the Employment
and Social Policy Council), during the Spanish Presidency. There will
also be a contribution by the Commission on lifelong learning to the Barcelona
Spring Council of 15-16 March 2002.
You can download the full report as a *.pdf file: click
Visit also the Club of Amsterdam conference about 'the future of the
Education & Learning' and the sections with books,
articles and links.