On 16th June 2015, EUCIS-LLL organised its Annual Conference on “Lifelong Learning, paving the way for learning and qualifications”. These conferences, bringing together participants from a variety of sectors, ranging from public institutions, private enterprises to civil society organisations, constitute a milestone in EUCIS-LLL’s daily work: your experiences and exchanges help us shape policy recommendations and constitute a genuine moment of dialogue and peer exchange on lifelong learning.
High level speakers including Claude Meisch, Luxembourgish Minister for Education, Childhood and Youth, stressed the importance of lifelong learning and the need for countries such as Luxembourg to reinforce their own strategies in partnership with stakeholders. The European Commission, represented by Chiara Gariazzo, Director, DG EAC, offered meaningful insight on the future of education and training cooperation at EU level and the consequent role civil society organisations such as EUCIS-LLL will have to play in it. The provision of transversal competences and basic skills, adapted to social reality and to digital innovation, were all topics on the table.
A solution to XXI century challenges
With the state of play in mind, participants were invited to listen and take part in a discussion around the question “is lifelong learning an answer to XXI century challenges?”. In an attempt to answer this issue, the first necessity is to frame those challenges. Prof. Dr. Schmidt-Hertha from the University of Tübingen poses three main ones: demographic changes, changing life courses and literacy in adulthood. He exposed the idea of shifting from an “age-differentiated” system to an “age-integrated” one, in which an individual would continue learning throughout his life.
Agreeing with these observations, Raul Valdes, Senior Programme Specialist of the UNESCO Lifelong Learning Institute, concentrated on how we should organise ourselves to operationalise lifelong learning. He brought an international dimension to the panel, calling his peers and participants to look beyond Europe at what is happening elsewhere in the world, namely in Asia with initiatives around community learning. He shared some indicators meant to measure progress as regards lifelong learning implementation.
Finally, Anicia Trindade’s presentation reminded us of the core principle that we sometimes forget under thick layers of policies and recommendations: the learner is first of all a human being and a believer. No programmes can really be successful if proper attention is not paid to his/her motivation. She outlined how the recognition of prior learning can be a great tool to boost individuals’ confidence and encourage them to take up further learning, refering to the RVCC system (validation) in Portugal.
During the afternoon Workshops, participants got together to discuss main areas of concern for lifelong learning, and formulate recommendations.
1. Recognition of non-formal and informal learning: focus on cross-sectorial partnerships linking a variety of services; cooperation between policy-makers and practitioners in defining validation mechanisms; building trust as a key to success.
2. Tackling the low skills trap: reaching out to under-represented groups; be careful with the language as certain terms such as “low skilled” may stigmatise and pressurise individuals; pool resources and services and engage all relevant stakeholders.
3. Bridging the gap between education and the labour market: refresh and update teachers’ skills by regularly placing them in real life settings; involve employers in curricula design; create the frameworks that allow a transfer of skills and competences coupled with the implementation of innovative assessment methods.
4. The role of social and civic competences in modern societies: promote lifelong learning from the earliest age; empower educators; develop a common language when assessing impact, fundamental to their success.
5. New technologies foster new learning methods: the challenge consists in taking on this innovation and spreading it to both learners and teachers, without losing on quality standards and adapting it to the different age-groups