The Lifelong Learning Week marks a focal point in the education and training calendars in Europe. It provides us with a space to discuss, reflect, deliberate, and debate on issues and subjects pertaining to education and training in Europe. It is an opportunity to work alongside members, to showcase their endeavours, and to forge new associations that can sew the seeds for novel avenues of collaboration. And to bring our concerns directly to European decision-makers. Our overall aim is to influence the public discourse, to inject a holistic conception of lifelong learning into our collective imagination, to re-articulate the very idea of what education can be – and, perhaps, what it shouldn’t.
Wellbeing in education and training marked a focal point; What does wellbeing in education mean? What practices currently constrain it? How can these barriers be overcome? How can institutions (national and European), educators, and the wider community operate in unison to re-position wellbeing as a fundamental component – to be realised through and within education? These are but some of the questions that were unpacked throughout the week.
There is a need for assessment methods, and their subsequent impact on learner wellbeing, to gain center stage in European decision-making. Their impact on the wellbeing of learners demands a concerted response that ties together national and European lead initiatives and paves a way forward. The way forward must be one in which the common assumption that the relationship between assessments and stress/anxiety is irresolvable is continuously and persistently dismantled.
In the thirteen events that took place throughout the LLLWeek21 the message was clear – alternative forms of assessment exist that are mindful of both wellbeing and the specific learning needs of individuals. The only barrier to their wide-spread implementation would be a lack of will and not a lack of feasibility. Indeed, positive examples showcased not only the need to make the change away from highly-stress-inducing forms of assessment but also the practical route forward. Where these more wellbeing conducive forms of assessment have flourished, a clear policy imperative has been present. And this is the crux of the matter, effectively addressing the issue of assessments and wellbeing requires action. It requires providing educators with the time and opportunities to become familiar with alternative assessment forms, it requires raising awareness on their benefits, and perhaps most of all, it requires the voice of learners to be heard in policy design and implementation.
This critical perspective carried through the entirety of events at the LLLWeek21, and was equally visible in discussions pertaining to issues such as the working conditions of civil society workers, the unequal impact of covid-19, and the detrimental effect of commodification on education. It is clear that the working conditions of civil society workers need to be improved alongside a furthering of recognition for the integral role they play in voicing the concerns of civil society at the European policy level. The degradation of civil society organisations and lack of recognition at the European level marks a black spot for supporting a more democratic, open and accessible EU policy field. Looking further, the commodification that has ravaged our education systems and has gained further ground throughout the pandemic needs to be halted. Education is a public good, not a profit tool, and should be regarded with due concern.