Member States have been working on common priorities in education and training, so the whole Union harmonises their work for the next decade. The new Strategic Framework for Cooperation 2021-2030 continues to include lifelong learning and mobility as priorities, as it was in previous EU strategies, but fails to put forward learning mobility targets for 2030. In short, there is no benchmark to measure the EU’s progress in “making learning mobility a reality for all” – not only a key objective of the framework and the European Education Area but also one of the main requests by citizens through the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE). This topic is particularly critical since a key target of the previous strategy – 20% of mobile higher education graduates – was not reached. The Lifelong Learning Platform presents a set of recommendations from its membership to address shortcomings and widen the access to learning mobilities across the EU. For learners to fully exert their right to education, it is crucial to ensure that all have access to learning mobilities should they wish to pursue them. The exertion of a right to education hinges on education mandatorily remaining a public good, which, implicitly, would make the experience of learning mobility also a public good.
LEARNING MOBILITY TARGETS
When referring to learning mobility targets, this entails an objective of a specific percentage of learners from particular age groups and from particular levels of education having been engaged in learning mobilities during their studies. The previously established targets under the Education and Training 2020 framework were 20% for higher education graduates and 6% of those with an initial vocational education and training qualification.
- The importance of targets requires expanding them to all education and training sectors, achieving a lifelong learning dimension: giving visibility to all forms of learning and educational sectors in all stages of life, and ensuring that they are implemented in a manner that boosts the quality of learning mobility.
- Targets should be more ambitious, yet realistic and achievable: existing targets (see above) should be doubled, covering a period of 10 years. Any Council Recommendation must state specific commitments to set targets by the next programming period clearly referencing a participatory multi-stakeholder co-creation process.
- Learners demand real learning mobilities, as virtual exchanges must not be counted towards mobility indicators. We advise against the term ‘virtual mobility’ as it does not represent the physical movement of learners. Data collection on virtual exchanges, blended and physical mobilities should be processed separately allowing for data disaggregation and transparency.
LEARNING MOBILITY PROCESS
- Addressing barriers to mobility, acknowledging their diversity and establishing clear categories based on evidence. Research shows that together with financial and linguistic barriers, targeted information addressing the concerns of different target groups is needed as well as whole-institution approaches to surmount those barriers.
- More and better public investment can ensure learners from different backgrounds have equal access to information and financial support matching their needs. More transparency is needed in terms of what is covered by mobility funding and when it will be available.
- Supporting the learners and their support environments through increased funding for individuals and more support to strengthen the structures of learning providers and mobility facilitators ensuring quality and inclusion.
- Ensuring the availability of support services is paramount for facilitating successful mobilities. Learners experience different needs, while access to housing, health care, leisure, accessible learning conditions, access to scholarships becomes ever more difficult as a mobile learner. There needs to be sufficient resources and incentives to maintain such services in order to ensure that learning mobility is tailored to the specificity of the beneficiaries.
- Cross-sectoral cooperation should be highlighted in any upcoming recommendation, solidifying cooperation between educational institutions, civil society, policy makers and nonprofit organisations experts in learning mobility.
- Virtual exchanges as part of blended mobilities can only be an added value to physical mobility, enhancing the experience of the learner before, during and after.
- Greening does not equal defunding learning mobility, which means that the transformation of learning mobility must be done through holistic evaluations of programmes and infrastructure: improving transport infrastructure, incentives to shift to greener options, promoting cross-border mobilities and improving the infrastructure of learning centres and households.
- No mobility programme is complete without recognition and validation, which requires funding for their development and/or improvement, making such systems easy to navigate. Clear measures should be provided to foster trust and transparency across education systems and widen their scope to all sectors of education and training.
- Regional and local level: Clear guidelines for Member States must be provided to work with subnational levels to improve administrative support, create adequate structures to support mobility and promote cross-border mobilities. Subnational funding can complement EU and national funding, ensuring mobility is widened to more sectors and to create synergies among different funding programmes.
MONITORING LEARNING MOBILITY
- Quantitative and Qualitative indicators are a must for the Council Recommendation, giving Member States clear guidelines for monitoring all learning mobility across the EU. Lessons from Higher Education can be adapted to other sectors.
- Support a cross-sectoral monitoring process, where mobilities across different sectors and EU funding programmes are counted as well as national, regional and local mobility schemes, including those undertaken through private organisations (nonprofit and for profit). Support capacity building of sub-national entities in data management, standardising and raising the quality of data collection across Member States.
- Ensure data transparency in collection, availability, analysis and use in decision-making. The Education and Training Monitor remains central to present learning mobility progress in all sectors of learning at the EU, national and regional levels. It must be complemented by data collection on educators’ mobilities. LLLP argues for streamlining of mobility data in the European Semester, ensuring that EU recommendations on funding for learning also target mobilities.
- Public funding from all levels is key to effectively operationalise the monitoring process and develop a quality monitoring system. The funding must be distributed according to the needs of the different actors and ensure they reach the ones most in need. Building the capacity of civil servants, learning providers and educators to guarantee quality data collection is essential and cannot be properly implemented without adequate resources.
Read our full statement on the upcoming Learning mobility framework here.