Today, the concept of “lifelong learning” (LLL) is widely used but its meaning differs according to whom is using it. According to the LLLPlatform, lifelong learning covers education and training across all ages and in all areas of life be it formal, non-formal or informal. It shall enable citizen’s emancipation and full participation in society in its civic, social and economic dimensions. Its objective should not only be described in terms of employability or economic growth but also as a framework for personal development.
The Steering Committee of the Lifelong Learning Platform has decided to postpone the Annual Conference 2020. Initially foreseen for 27-28 May 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia, due to the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19, LLLP decided to hold its Annual Conference 2020 on November 30 in Brussels. The Annual Conference will see a different format and will thus be coupled with the LLLWeek 2020, of which it will represent the opening event.
The topic of the conference – Lifelong Learning for Sustainable Societies – remains the same, as LLLP hopes to deliver a great discussion on the sustainable aspects of our education systems in the aftermath of the coronavirus emergency.
A delegation from the Lifelong Learning Platform had the pleasure to meet with the new Chair of the CULT Committee, MEP Sabine Verheyen (Germany, EPP). The meeting was a very fruitful discussion, focusing on the future of lifelong learning and the work of the Euroepan Parliament for the coming months.
She showed a particular interest in validation and especially assessment methods. A german led organisation was brought to our attention as a successful practice of new assessment methods. We confirmed that this is a priority for us and that we are currently collecting all existing methods developed.
While the trialogue is taking up most of the EP efforts, she confirmed that the European Parliament is following with great interest the new dossiers of the newly-elected Commission, to be ready for the legislative process when it happens. We acknowledge with delight that MEP Verheyen is calling herself for closer cooperation between DG EAC and DG EMPL when it comes to education and training: they are one soul and should not stand divided, let alone addressed in different policies.
The meeting was fruitful and timely: the understanding of each other’s priorities remains crucial in times of uncertainty and until the new Commission takes office. The Lifelong Learning Platform hopes to be working closer and closer with MEPs in the CULT Committee, an essential partner and a precious ally for the advancement of lifelong learning.
BRUSSELS, 30 September 2019 – On 25 September, ahead of the second European Education Summit, the European Parliament’s Lifelong Learning Interest Group met to discuss Skills for Life, Skills for the Future with Members of the European Parliament Julie Ward and Sirpa Pietikäinen, representatives of the European Commission, Finnish Presidency of the Council and stakeholders from all sectors of education, training and beyond. The meeting focused on how to better implement the concept of life skills, which enable people to fully participate in society as self-sufficient individuals, by bringing various domains and stakeholders together, including the different configurations of the EU institutions.
In the course of the discussions speakers and participants dwelled on four key areas:
Recognising the diversity of learning
“Learning can happen in so many different places and we have to continue to demonstrate that,” stressed Ms Ward. The audience heard testimonies from different sectors of learning, all crucial in their own right for the development of skills required by individuals across different life contexts, including adult education, higher education, VET, non-formal education as well as the less obvious field of sports. Bart Verschueren, Coordinator of EU Sport Link and representative of the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA), emphasised the idea of physical literacy explaining: “sports help to include people in society and promote well-being. It is an essential part of lifelong learning.”
Investing in European cooperation
Ms Pietikäinen made a strong plea to Member States to see the value of European cooperation and pooling of resources when it comes to skills policies: “We hope that we can encourage the Member States to see that lifelong learning is a European issue.” She added that it is a macroeconomic issue and so mechanisms such as the European Semester have a role to play. Margarida Segard, Vice-President of the European Association of Institutes for Vocational Training (EVBB), recommended further connecting the European and national levels in order to truly foster innovation.
Mainstreaming skills and policy synergies
Johanna Koponen, representative of the Finnish Presidency, emphasised its interest to promoting continuous learning by taking synergies between sectors further, notably through the first-ever joint Education and Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting on 8 November. Roman Horvath from DG GROW stressed the skills needs from the perspective of industry, explaining that both technical and soft skills are required.
However, this needs to be reflected within the institutions through more robust cooperation, recalled Lucie Susova, Vice-President of the Lifelong Learning Platform: “I hope that the (new Commission) President will mainstream skills issues holistically instead of having silos between DGs where they find it difficult to cooperate.” Strengthening cooperation between different sectors of education, formal and non-formal, was likewise highlighted by several speakers including Fabrice Gonet, Interim Secretary-General of the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL) and Gina Ebner, Secretary-General of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA). Learning also needs to happen in a more multidisciplinary way, taking account of psychology, neuroscience and through a more integrated research agenda, commented Mirela Mazalu, Secretary-General of the European University College Association (EucA).
Promoting skills not only for the workforce
The idea that education and lifelong learning are not only for the acquisition of labour market skills was evoked throughout the debate. Mónika Képe-Holmberg from DG EAC said this is clear in the cooperation between Member States, where the ET2020 framework deals with issues such as inclusion, inequalities and innovation in education. Ms Ebner explained EAEA’s Life Skills for Europe projectwhich offers a holistic approach: “In our project, we developed a framework that identifies skills that every person needs in their personal and professional life. Education providers can adapt it to their own needs, starting from the learner’s needs.” Francesca Caena from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) also stressed the different facets of the Life Competence (LifeComp) framework, currently under development, which conceives learners as agents of change, integrating cross-cutting skills such as critical thinking, intercultural understanding and offering “the advantage of straddling employment, education and lifelong learning”.
The Lifelong Learning Platform and the European Association for the Education of Adults look forward to continuing constructive dialogue with the new European Commission and Parliament to embed a holistic approach to skills policies in the years to come.
Initiated in 2015 by the Lifelong Learning Platform and the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), and chaired by MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland, EPP), the Interest Group on Lifelong Learning brings together civil society representatives and MEPs to discuss key issues connected to lifelong learning in Europe.
The 3rd Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) Biennale took place in Berlin on 6-7 May and focused on taking stock of what has been achieved so far in terms of policy development and implementation. Most of all, it addressed the key issue of how to move forward. The Lifelong Learning Platform was partners in the organisation of this milestone event.
Globalization, new technologies and migration are changing the way we work and learn. Our systems need to reflect the changes that we already witness in the world, but sometimes we lag behind and struggle to keep up with societal needs. Pivotal to any further action or policy development, the conference was the perfect occasion to launch the Berlin Declaration, a comprehensive statement that unified all stakeholders behind the need to give structural framework to validation needs. The event managed to gather all actors under the same banner, delivering a great example of what transectoral cooperation worldwide should look like.
Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, shared the ambitions of the Biennale, stressing the importance of empowering the validation practitioners and stakeholders worldwide. A timely message, that places extra emphasis on the participation of practitioners, providers, guidance professionals, and civil society in making all learning visible. In the EU, validation stakeholders will be consulted by the EC this year to take stock on the implementation of the 2012 Council recommendation and look forward on how to ensure everyone acknowledge that validation, indeed, benefits: the learners, the economy and our society.
Cedefop and UNESCO drew on consolidated evidence from the EU Inventory report as well as the Global Inventory on National Qualification Frameworks to outline the state of play of validation in Europe and in the entire world. While there is a strong need and a shared will towards validation, results are far from encouraging as they depict a very fragmented scenario. Nonetheless, all participants and stakeholders were keen on establishing a VLP network, able to serve a vast harmonisation purpose.
In fact, the shared feeling is that validation is about giving visibility and value to all forms of learning; through validation, we can uncover and unlock latent talent in the workforce and in society. We dig deep, and bring hidden knacks to the surface. After all, this was the meaning of the presentation by UNESCO, that highlighted how validation is an extension of the human right to education, and should thus be universally recognised.
“Validation is about opening doors”
As main takeaways, stakeholders at the conference identified six main tracks, essential to the blossoming of a healthy European validation system.
Organisational arrangements are fundamental to the success of a VPL system. Key stakeholders’ areas of responsibility need to be clearly demarcated, with extensive collaboration and cooperation across sectors.
Validation systems have a financial impact. For this reason, the creation of financing structures and a response to the question of who pays what towards the cost of validation or qualification procedures are of crucial significance.
Procedures and instruments
Procedures include structured pathways for validation of learning outcomes, training for assessors and guides, as well as mechanisms for quality assurance of validation processes. Instruments are tools that make learning outcomes visible or help to assess them.
Access to guidance is essential for learners trying to navigate recognition procedures. A combination of face-to-face support and online tools and information form a valuable component of any functioning VPL system.
The true value of VPL results on the job market and to education providers determines the success of a VPL system. VPL results must facilitate an individual’s mobility, opening up pathways which were previously closed off. This is the most evident contribution of lifelong learning to VPL, and it’s lifelong learning that ensures VLP lives ‘longer’ than the actual validation process.
A clear legal framework, which coordinates and oversees quality provision of VPL, is the bedrock of a sustainable VPL system. No system can be effective without clear and stable foundations and clear legal incentives in cooperation with different policy departments (employment, education, social affairs, youth…).
The lifelong learning contribution to the VPL Biennale Declaration is overwhelming. A functioning validation system leaves no one behind, ensuring that validation of non-formal and informal learning serves the common interest and benefits everyone. Even more than that: a validation system centred on lifelong learning impacts an individual career path and personal development way beyond the actual validation process: it opens up possibilities and pathways for self-development, truly projecting all individuals in the society they live in and contribute to.
Practitioners and stakeholders will gather for the next VPL Biennale in May 2021 in South Africa, to assess the progresses made in the light of the Berlin Declaration. The Lifelong Learning Platform will keep on following the latest debates, influencing decision-making processes through the thrust of its membership in the Validation Task Force; the work of LLLP will keep on pushing for assessment, recognition and validation of non-formal and informal learning as a crucial step towards a lifelong learning Europe.
The third meeting of the Lifelong Learning Interest Group of the European Parliament in 2018 took place on 4 December as part of the 2018 Lifelong Learning Week. Organised by the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP) and the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), the meeting gave the opportunity to Members of the European Parliament, representatives of civil society and stakeholders from all sectors of education and training to discuss the topic of Investing in education and lifelong learning – how can the next MFF support Europe’s learners?, together with Mr Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness.
The focus of the meeting was on how the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) can be an opportunity to strengthen accessibility and quality in education, training and lifelong learning, through the flagship Erasmus+ programme, but also through synergies with other programmes with a learning dimension such as Horizon Europe and the European Social Fund+ (ESF+). Speakers stressed the importance given to education in the Gothenburg Social Summit last November and the prospect of a European Education Area by 2025 as recognition of education’s crucial role in shaping the future of Europe.
MEP Jill Evans, shadow rapporteur for the CULT Committee’s report on Erasmus+, highlighted the importance of Erasmus+ in supporting the transition of young people from education to adulthood. She emphasised its impact on employability and the promotion of active citizenship, in particular participation in European elections. Confirming the ambition of tripling the budget, she underlined the need for the new programme to be more inclusive, supporting organisations working with marginalised groups. Regular review of financial support to meet the real needs of students, and support of language learning, including language minorities, were also key points.
MEP Emilian Pavel shared his confidence in a positive approach towards Erasmus+ in the EP, as evidenced by the almost unanimous vote on the EMPL Committee’s Opinion for which he is rapporteur. He said VET and lifelong learning should have a crucial role in the future programme and emphasised that not only Erasmus+, but also other programmes such as ESF+, should be strengthened. He recalled that lifelong learning is a priority of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which underpins the EP’s interim report on the next MFF.
Vice-President Katainen highlighted that the next MFF would have the highest ever share of investment in human capital, vital for enhancing people’s resilience in the face of rapid technological changes: “We need to build the resilience of individuals in society. But it is hard to imagine how to do that without improving the quality of education at all levels,” he underlined. In addition to the important role of Erasmus+, which he hopes in the next programme period will benefit more VET learners and teachers, he referred to the strong social investments that the proposed InvestEU programme will promote, as well as synergies between ESF+ and Erasmus+ for supporting disadvantaged groups. Such synergies are a priority: “I agree that breaking down silos between programmes and policy areas is of primary importance – this is crucial to ensure that they are harnessed in the best way to meet their objectives”, he stated.
Cooperation across sectors and programmes was also emphasised by Gina Ebner, President of LLLP and Secretary General of EAEA: “Learning throughout life requires more and more complex connections, as we take on different roles: citizens, consumers, parents, or volunteers,” said Ms Ebner, calling not only for a lifelong learning approach in Erasmus+, but also on linking different sectors to education, such as agriculture or health. Looking at the opportunities given by the MFF, she underlined that they could help with alleviating inequalities, reaching out to disadvantaged learners, promoting democracy and values, but also addressing inequalities within countries, and within the lifelong learning sector itself, where some sectors get more funding than others.
Overall, speakers and participants agreed on the value of investing in people through high-quality education, training and lifelong learning in order to reduce social inequalities, promote upskilling and tackle negative anti-democratic forces. A key message was that contacts between people and organisations and across various education sectors, made possible by Erasmus+ and other funding programmes, should be further supported in the next EU budget. LLLP and its members shall continue to advocate for this as the political negotiations continue.
During their stay in Poland, LLL-Hub partners had the chance to participate in the expert debate “Qualifications at the start” which was co-organised by our partner WUP and Krakow Technology Park as part of the Malopolska Day of Lifelong Learning. The debate dealt with three key issues: 1) start-ups and modern business, 2) the role of new technologies (between science and entrepreneurship), 3) competences and the labour market. Their conclusions, among others, stressed the need for more placements and internships, which support “learning by doing”, based on a strengthened dialogue between companies and educational institutions.
On the 13 of May 2015, 24 national experts participated in the Lifelong Learning Hub regional Forum in Spain, providing concrete policy recommendations for further developments in Lifelong Learning in Spain. Some of the outcomes were the need to simplify administrative procedures for training systems and create requalification programmes to facilitate professional integration; decisions and recommendations will only be efficient if they are go from the bottom to the top; the lack of entrepreneurial mindset; the need to modernise the educational system in order to adapt to the changing learning process. In general, efforts need to be made in Spain to improve participation, quality, financing and development of Lifelong Learning, namely by ensuring the efficient use of available resources.
SecondChanceEducation.eu, the European learning platform for teachers, has been launched as part of the DISCO-project. DISCO focusses on quality improvement of second chance education. The development of an online knowledge and quality centre is positioned centrally, and where assessment tools, good practices and training are made available. For further information visit www.secondchanceeducation.eu. If you are a teacher, trainer, coach, educator or policy maker, you will also find information on how to submit an article, participate in training, or access tools please.
European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) and European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning (EUCIS-LLL) have initiated an Interest Group on Lifelong Learning together with six Members of the European Parliament. Hosted by MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland, EPP), the group brings together civil society representatives and MEPs to discuss various key issues connected to lifelong learning. The first meeting took place in Brussels on 16th of April 2015.“The idea is to have an interest group on lifelong learning with a strong emphasis on adult education. An important reason to form the group is the new European Commission and its priorities. We stand for a comprehensive and trans-sectorial lifelong learning approach, and want to stress that education is not only about employment, but is linked to personal development, social inclusion, active citizenship, and much more. The interest group works as a “watchdog” to what the European Commission is doing,” explains Ms. Gina Ebner, Secretary-General of EAEA.The focus of 2015–2016 is “Inclusive education for inclusive societies”. The Group aims to fight inequalities and discrimination in education in order to reach the Europe 2020 and Education and Training 2020 headline targets and contribute to the EU growth strategy this way.“The Lifelong Learning Interest Group represents a great opportunity to coordinate our efforts in tackling these challenges for the future of Europe in a comprehensive and participative way,” says Audrey Frith, EUCIS-LLL Director.
The Group will create bridges between social and employment policies and education policies as well as between policy-makers, practitioners and researchers.
“Informal learning, intergenerational learning, creative skills – all these are fundamental but are often forgotten about. We are losing people if everything is tied to formal learning,” says MEP Julie Ward.
The next meeting will take place before the summer.