VIENNA – The Annual Conference of the Lifelong Learning Platform on “Lifelong Learning Culture: A partnership for rethinking education” took place at the very beginning of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union.
On 5-6 July over a hundred representatives from the education and culture sectors including political representatives, civil society organisations, academics and practitioners gathered in Vienna for the Lifelong Learning Platform’s Annual Conference “Lifelong Learning Culture: A partnership for rethinking education”. The purpose of the conference was to highlight the state-of-play and steps required to accelerate the shift towards a lifelong learning culture, inspired by recent developments at EU level including the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage and the ambitious initiative to establish a European Education Area
Over the two days participants explored together a number of pressing questions such as how to define learning environments in the modern era and strengthen cooperation between these spaces across formal, non-formal and informal settings; what the barriers and enablers are, particularly in socio-economic terms, to fostering a culture of lifelong learning in the European societies; and what place culture has in our education and lifelong learning systems. Several participants emphasised the need for strong political will and commitment to build genuine synergies between education and culture and to invest sufficient resources in education in all its forms. Furthermore, lively debates took place on the future role of teachers and educators as they adapt to technological and other forms of change and what this means for their relationship with the learner.
Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Ms Denitsa Sacheva presented the main outcomes of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU which, during its mandate, secured agreement on the Council Recommendation for common values, inclusive education and European dimension of teaching and Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. She stressed the importance of the lifelong learning continuum from early childhood education to adult learning and the fact that we should approach lifelong learning in a “holistic, flexible and open-minded way”. Other speakers including Mr Stefaan Hermans, Director at DG EAC, and Mr Stefan Zotti, Director of OeAD – the Austrian Erasmus+ Agency – recalled the necessity of lifelong learning for dealing with societal challenges including digitalisation, migration and ageing societies.
Experts from Europe and beyond provided interesting insights into the world of education and lifelong learning and its intersection with culture. Keynote speaker Prof Dr Kim Shinil, former Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister of South Korea, presented his country’s efforts in pursuing the creation of a lifelong learning society with 5-year national strategic plans and the designation of over half of the country’s municipalities as “lifelong learning cities” – where strong partnerships are sought within communities between schools, universities, NGOs and cultural centres. Building on the importance of communities, Prof Rineke Smilde, University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, inspired us with her keynote about the links between music and lifelong learning, showcasing the value of a holistic approach integrating both for health and well-being, while Prof Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, Vice-President of EURASHE, recalled the need to transform our education systems, achieve permeability and recognise that learning happens, for the vast majority, in non-formal and informal ways.
Discussions with experts in interactive sessions brought to light the sheer diversity of spaces where learning can happen including in the cultural sphere and the subsequent need to make all knowledge and skills count, no matter where they are acquired. The topics under discussion will be further explored this year, notably during the 2018 Lifelong Learning Week taking place at the European Parliament on 3-7 December.
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 For more on this please read the Joint position paper “Building synergies between education and culture”