People are constantly learning everywhere and at all times. Learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom, but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations. Not a single day goes by that does not lead to additional skills, knowledge and/or competences for all individuals. Examples of established contexts for lifelong learning beyond traditional "brick and mortar" schooling are:
- Adult education or the acquisition of formal qualifications or work and leisure skills later in life.
- Continuing education which often describes extension or not-for-credit courses offered by higher education institutions.
- Work-based learning which includes professional development and on-the-job training.
- Personal learning environments or self-directed learning using a range of sources and tools including online applications.
For people outside the initial education and training system, adults in particular, it is very likely that this learning, taking place at home, at the workplace or elsewhere, is a lot more important, relevant and significant than the kind of learning that occurs in formal settings.
Lifelong learning is fundamental to jobs and growth, but also to social inclusion. This can be seen in the European Universities' Charter for Lifelong Learning, as well as in the latest news from the Copenhagen Process (Bordeaux Communique, November 2008) and the Bologna Process. The latest Ministerial Communique (Louvain, April 2009), leaning heavily on the Charter as it prioritizes 'the implementation of lifelong learning policies, with strong partnership between public authorities and HE institutes".
Validation of Learning in Europe
Learning taking place outside formal education and training bodies is crucially important for individuals, companies and society at large. However, learning that occurs outside the formal learning system is often not well understood, made visible or, probably as a consequence, appropriately valued.
Making informal and non-formal learning visible and validated is an intrinsically challenging task.
Validation of non-formal and informal learning is a centrepiece of lifelong learning and has become a priority for national and European vocational education and training (VET) policies in the last decade. Validation of non-formal and informal learning is not only a political challenge but also an ethical and especially a methodological question: how to measure, how to validate, how to assess. These developments have considerable impact on the professional development of VET teachers and trainers, as they are keys to improving the quality of education and training.
EU Member States are currently working to define national qualifications levels in terms of learning outcomes - what a learner knows, understands and is able to do - in order to link them to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The EQF is an EU-wide tool to make qualifications more readable and comparable across Europe.
With its eight-level reference matrix the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) acts as a translation device between national systems in Europe. It promotes workers' and learners' mobility between countries and facilitates their lifelong learning. One of the key ideas behind the EQF is that qualifications are best described through learning outcomes while traditionally, qualifications are mostly described in terms of input such as length of study or type of institution attended.
Developments across Europe
The latest Ministerial Communique (Louvain, April 2009) leaned heavily on the Charter as it prioritizes 'the implementation of lifelong learning policies. The latest Ministerial Communique (Budapest-Vienna Declaration, March 12, 2010) committed to the full and proper implementation of the Louvain Communique.
The European Commission is developing an ECVET users' guide, and is establishing a European ECVET users' group and a European ECVET network. The VALLA project and the VALLA online Tool are not part of this network, for the time being, but it has been warmly welcomed by both industry and the educational sector. Several projects focusing on the development and promotion of ECVET are being developed in different sectors (including automobile service, chemistry, tourism, and international trade. More information on current ECVET projects can be found on the ECVET Pilot projects website and in the ECVET Projects bulletins. http://www.ecvet-projects.eu/
The single EC umbrella for education and training programmes
- Learning for all
Education and training 2020 – diverse systems, shared goals
UK Lifelong Learning information websites:
UK - The Lifelong Learning Programme – Stakeholder Consultation
British Council - The EU Lifelong Learning Programme
Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK):
- Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) Learning & Development Standards Review - Open Consultation: http://www.lluk.org/learning-and-development-standards-review-open-consultation.htm
- Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) -The Power of Lifelong Learning: http://www.lluk.org/the-power-of-lifelong-learning.htm
Germany proposes national framework for more transparency on its qualifications in Europe. Please CLICK HERE for more information.
The EUCEN observatory on Lifelong Learning is developed by the European University Continuing Education Network (EUCEN) and supported by the lifelong learning policies unit of the European Commission. It aims at developing Lifelong Learning at European level. Please go to: http://www.lifelonglearning-observatory.eu/