The Lifelong Learning Interest Group, composed of Members of the European Parliament and representatives of civil society, met on 24 January 2018 for the event “Taking stock of Lifelong Learning in Europe – what will a European Education Area bring”, hosted by MEP Sirpa Pietikainen.
The event began with a presentation of the Guiding Principles for Lifelong Learning, based on the outcomes of the Interest Group meetings held since its inception in September 2015. Discussions followed on how the application of these principles could contribute to shaping the vision for a European Education Area announced by Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner Tibor Navrascics just prior to the Gothenburg Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth on 17 November 2017.
The Guiding Principles for Lifelong Learning encompass 9 themes: citizenship education, intercultural dialogue, critical thinking, learner-centred approaches, investment in lifelong learning, skills for the world of work, support for educators, policy coherence for lifelong learning, and sustainable development. Each of these themes comprise several guiding principles, which will be published later in 2018.
The proposal for a European Education Area was widely welcomed as a positive step forward for education, training and lifelong learning at the EU level. However, many participants stressed the need for policy coherence to ensure that policies do not focus exclusively on a specific sector (e.g. schools) but encompass all levels and forms of education for a truly lifelong learning approach, and that consideration should also be given to countries outside the EU – for example, concerning the recognition of diplomas. Moreover, the lack of implementation of the 2012 Council Recommendation on the validation of non-formal and informal learning by Member States was highlighted as an important obstacle to address in making this ambitious vision a reality.
Charlotte Olsson-Altansunar from the Cabinet of Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission, presented its political priorities for education, notably the European Education Area.
“The European Education Area is widening the perspective on education and puts it higher on the political agenda. The debate on education changed after the launch of the New Skills Agenda, where a strong emphasis was put on employment. However, looking at the employment market is only one aspect of education, and the skills required for jobs might change very quickly within the next few years,” stressed Charlotte Olsson-Altansunar.
“We need to promote key competences such as learning to think through non-formal lifelong learning within education and lifelong learning strategies of the European Union. Lifelong learning will be central for the future of the European Union,” said Sirpa Pietikäinen, Member of the European Parliament (EPP) and Chair of the Interest Group. She stressed the need for a wider approach to education and lifelong learning that considers current and future social and economic challenges.
Could the European Education Area potentially be a ‘lifelong learning area’?
“Could the European Education Area potentially be a ‘lifelong learning area’?” suggested Gina Ebner, EAEA Secretary-General. The European Education Area may be a step into the right direction; however, it puts the focus on formal education rather than non-formal and informal learning, sectors that play an increasingly important role for the acquisition of skills and competences.
“While the European Education Area focuses primarily on formal education, the Member States are encouraged to promote non-formal and informal lifelong learning in the new framework. The funding programmes of the European Union will have a focus on these sectors of education,” said Charlotte Olsson-Altansunar, Cabinet of Jyrki Katainen. She added that the Review of the 2006 Framework of Key Competences referred to lifelong learning.
“It is not only about creating new strategies or frameworks for lifelong learning, but also about implementing them. We need a stronger push from the European Commission for that,” said Brikena Xhomaqi, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform. Civil society at the national, regional and local levels is at the forefront of promoting policy-making and the implementation of education and lifelong learning strategies.
“The crucial role of civil society for the European Union needs to be recognised,” said David Lopez, President of the Lifelong Learning Platform and representative of SOLIDAR.
Chaired by MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland, EPP), the Interest Group on Lifelong Learning brings together civil society representatives and MEPs to discuss various key issues connected to lifelong learning. The Group aims to fight inequalities and discrimination in education in order to reach the Europe 2020 and Education and Training 2020 headline targets.
David Lopez, President of the Lifelong Learning Platform was asked by “France Volontaires” what volunteering mean for lifelong learning.
“When it comes to education and lifelong learning, the tension between the acquisition of competences and citizenship education is of particular relevance for the European point of view. Thus, it is crucial to develop a consistent policy on volunteering.”
“Message to Europeans 3.0” is a new European project awarded to EucA and partners
(CIME, Italian Council of the European Movement, Bibó István Szakkollégium and Studentski Dom Ljubljana).
With the aim of building a shared “new narrative” for the European Union a team of 40
students selected as “Student Leaders” will be engaged in various activities encouraging democratic participation, and inspiring young people’s civic engagement in the European countries. The goal of the project is to propose a new “Message to Europeans” after the first of 1948. In the aftermath of WWII, politicians, artists, philosophers, economists, entrepreneurs, scientists and trade unionists from all over the Europe came together in The Hague to discuss the future of the European continent under the political, economic and cultural aspects. The five pledges of their final declaration, the first “Message to Europeans”, paved the way for the beginning of the European integration process. Given Europe’s present challenges, as seen in the rise of populism, economic inequality, voters’ disengagement and migration crisis, it’s high time for an update. The road to the final message will go through six events around Europe (Warsaw (27-29 Nov 2017), Budapest (5-7 Mar 2018), The Hague (11-13 April 2018), Ljubljana (12-14 Sept 2018), Rome (7-9 Nov 2018), and Brussels (19-21 Feb 2019). At these events, young people from more than 12 EU countries, will be engaged in several activities spanning from simulations, mock trials, British Parliamentary debates to PechaKuchas. Social Media Campaigns and a
modern online presence will run in parallel. This innovative methodology will allow an engaging reflection on the most urgent issues and pressing topics, promoting and reinforcing young people’s political participation advocating applied learning and social responsibility in the local communities. The project, that will run until July 2019, will produce a final declaration “Message to Europeans 3.0”: it will present the opinions of the involved citizens and recommendations for the relaunch of a new political participation.
The European Commission has published the mid-term evaluation report of the Erasmus+ Programme. The evaluation builds on over a million responses to questions related to the most well-known programme of the Union, and it establishes itself as the most comprehensive and recent source of evidence.
The main highlights from the Commission are:
Erasmus+ is felt as to be supportive in both employment terms and active citizenship
Evidence shows that Erasmus+ is more coherent, relevant and partly more efficient and simpler than its predecessors.
The evaluation makes a clear case for a stronger investment in education and training with a new emphasis on the younger generations and the most vulnerable groups.
Today, the European Commission followed-up its November Communication on “Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture” with a new package of measures aimed at strengthening key competences, digital skills and the European dimension of teaching.
A Digital Education Action Plan which sets out the priorities of making better use of digital technology for teaching and learning, developing relevant digital skills and competences, and making better use of data analysis and foresight for improving education
A Council Recommendation on common values, inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching which recommends Member States to take steps to boost citizenship education, critical thinking and media literacy skills, encourage active participation of students, parents and teachers in school governance, and help all pupils access quality education from an early age. It also seek to promote a better understanding of Europe’s common heritage and functioning of the EU. To support this, eTwinning and school mobility through Erasmus+ will be strengthened.
The Lifelong Learning Platform welcomes these initiatives but calls for a greater recognition of the crucial role that non-formal and informal learning plays in supporting skills and competence development as well as social inclusion. Implementation remains a particular problem for the Key Competences framework and the announced update must go hand-in-hand with effective supporting measures for learning in all its forms. Taking these initiatives forward, LLLP also encourages the Commission to more explicitly address the needs of all age groups beyond children and young people. Not all young people are students and not all students are young people – lifelong learning happens across all aspects of life and we need education policies that match this 21st century reality.
While the Digital Education Action Plan provides a useful set of guidelines for supporting innovation, LLLP feels that it is missing a broader view on the inclusion of vulnerable individuals and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to struggle in adapting to new technologies.
LLLP will be addressing these issues in the months ahead, firstly during the next meeting of the EP Interest Group on Lifelong Learning “Taking stock of lifelong learning in Europe – what will a European Education Area bring?” on 24 January (see here for more information). We will also be holding debates on intercultural learning and competences later this year in view of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage. Stay tuned for more details!
As appeared on the COMMUNIA website, today a joint letter was sent to all MEPs working on copyright reform. The letter is an urgent request to improve the education exception in the proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. It is supported by 35 organisations representing schools, libraries, universities and non-formal education, and also individual educators and information specialists.
The future of education determines the future of society. In the letter we explain the changes needed to facilitate the use of copyrighted works in support of education. We listed four main problems with the Commission’s proposal:
#1: A limited exception instead of a mandatory one
The European Commission proposed a mandatory exception, which can be overridden by licenses. As a consequence educational exception will still be different in each Member State. Moreover, educators will need a help from a lawyer to understand what they are allowed to do.
#2 Remuneration should not be mandatory
Currently most Member States have exceptions for educational purposes that are completely or largely unremunerated. Mandatory payments will change the situation of those educators (or their institutions), which will have to start paying for materials they are now using for free.
#3: Excluding experts
The European Commission’s proposal does not include all important providers of education as only formal educational establishments are covered by the exception. We note that the European lifelong-learning model underlines the value of informal and non-formal education conducted in the workplace. All these are are excluded from the education exception.
#4: Closed-door policy
The European Commission’s proposal limits digital uses to secure institutional networks and to the premises of an educational establishment. As a consequence educators will not develop and conduct educational activities in other facilities such as libraries and museums, and they will not be able to use modern means of communication, such as emails and the cloud.
The LLL-IG will meet again in the beginning of 2018, on January 24th at 14:30 in the European Parliament. This meeting, under the title “Taking stock of Lifelong Learning in Europe – what will a European Education Area bring?” will be the occasion to discuss the newly proposed European Education Area.
We would like to use this meeting as an opportunity to discuss the outcomes of previous meetings and put together some guiding principles that have emerged from its work. A final document, collecting inputs from civil society organisations and MEPs alike, will be presented. At this meeting we will discuss what the steps for the promotion of lifelong learning in Europe should be, particularly in wake of the European Commission’s communication from 14 November on “Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture” which lays out Vice-President Katainen‘s vision for a European Education Area (see LLLP statement here), and also in light of the high-level Education Summit on inclusion and diversity taking place the following day 25 January in Brussels. The event will also be a good opportunity to reflect on the possibility of working towards establishing an EP Intergroup on Lifelong Learning in the next Parliament.
In addition, 2018 will see much discussion on the future of the Erasmus+ programme and this will be a major point of debate at the LLL Interest Group meetings, particularly as the Erasmusx10 Campaign initiated by the Erasmus+ Coalition continues to gather momentum and support, including in the CULT Committee’s recent opinion on the next MFF.
“Education and Democracy”: Youth e-Perspective on Migration by ALL DIGITAL, was awarded as best practice in “Education and Democracy”, thanks to the combination of interactive courses and the focus on migration and refugees.
We would like to say a special “thank you” to all the Jury members for their commitment to our cause. LLLP really feels blessed to be able to count on such special experts. Thank you also to everyone who participated in the LLLWeek Reception, a great success!
The Lifelong Learning Platform participated in a mobility learning activity at CICERO Learning, a network for distinguished researchers and research groups on learning based at the University of Helsinki. Andrew Todd, Policy and Advocacy Officer at the LLLPlatform, shares here his experience and insights on how innovative research can contribute to education policy.
How can educational research inform policy-making? This was a question at the forefront of my mind when I visited CICERO Learning at the University of Helsinki in October as part of an Erasmus+ KA1 job shadowing.
CICERO Learning is a network of researchers from various disciplines who have an interest in learning. The network seeks to promote innovations and synergies between research communities which can benefit society. The aim of my visit was to gain an understanding of the educational research which the academics in Helsinki are working on in order to inform my policy work at the Lifelong Learning Platform. As a network of associations active in the field of education and training, the LLLP sees the benefit of collaboration with researchers working in the learning domain in view of the valuable lessons and insights this can bring for education policy-making.
Sound, movement and the dynamics of learning
Studies have shown a correlation between physical activity carried out in one’s free time and academic performance. This goes towards explaining why Finnish schools have a long tradition of regular breaks between classes in order to give children more time to move and play. A fascinating area where a number of the researchers, including Prof Mari Tervaniemi, Dr Minna Huotilainen and Dr Minna Törmänen, have been working on is the effect of both movement and music on learning processes. Prof Tervaniemi’s research has involved studying the effects of music interventions on the brain through brain recording methods (EGG) and this has shown that it is possible to observe parts of the brain react and enlarge in response to the music. In light of this effect on cognitive function, the question arises about whether music activities have the potential to enhance learning.
Photo credits to Katri Saarikivi
The longitudinal research project that Prof Tervaniemi, Dr Törmänen and others are now carrying out seeks to bring together music and movement in the classroom to observe the impact on cognitive functions, academic skills and social interaction. Doing this in the classroom does not have to be a complicated process but can be as simple as incorporating some light clapping and singing into the usual lessons. Indeed, as Prof Tervaniemi explained to me, if this is well-planned and introduced at an appropriate stage in the children’s learning, the effects can be very positive, which has been confirmed by teachers themselves. It will be interesting to follow this study and to see what its final results can teach us about the learning process.
Learning of global competencies
Researchers at Helsinki University are working on the development of pedagogical tools that support students’ learning of “global competencies”, also commonly known as soft or transferable skills. The group of researchers – Dlearn.Helsinki – had their work recognised by reaching the finale of the Helsinki Challenge, a competition where teams of researchers from ten Finnish universities work on solutions aimed at helping to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Speaking with team leader Prof Auli Toom, she explained that these kinds of generic skills can be difficult for educators at upper secondary and university level to grasp and integrate alongside subject-specific competences. This is nevertheless important to address given that the development of such skills can determine students’ success in later professional life. “Team Dlearn. Helsinki” is hence seeking to develop a solution that combines global competencies and today’s school system. In view of the rapidly changing world in which we live and the societal challenges we are facing, this is no doubt a crucial task.
Pathways to adulthood
I also had the opportunity to speak with Prof Katariina Salmela-Aro about her research on young people’s learning pathways. She has looked into the issue of school-to-work transitions and reports that study-related burnout and engagement problems can lead to similar issues during working life. This brings to light the importance of prioritising well-being in the school environment. Moreover, Prof Salmela-Aro calls for a smoother transition of Finnish students to university studies as they are relatively late in starting these studies compared to their European peers – the average age to start university in Finland is 23 years old – due to, among other factors, a complex process of entrance examinations. It is important to address this in Prof Salmela-Aro’s view as it can have a long-term impact on young people’s learning pathways and participation in lifelong learning.
An interesting concept that I discussed with post doctoral researcher Ms Marianna Vivitsou was the use of digital storytelling as a pedagogical method in schools. Digital storytelling involves setting a task for students where they use digital devices to record a video with a specific theme and subsequently edit the clips to construct a story. Ms Vivitsou explained that this student-centred approach can make learning a more complete and meaningful process as the learners have to reflect on how to build a coherent narrative. Thus, it is not just about the skills required to use digital devices but about the way in which story construction can serve to improve the process of teaching and learning.
Learning analytics was another topic that I became acquainted with during my visit, this time during a meeting with Dr Ari Korhonen from Aalto University. He pointed out the benefits that automatic assessment, for example, can have for both students and educators as it gives the former a better idea of their current progress and the latter a rich set of data to help them understand how their students are doing in the course rather than relying solely on traditional methods. Indeed, Dr Korhonen explained that learning analytics can enable educators to identity misconceptions that their students have of the course material and thus help them to reflect on how they are teaching certain topics.
My visit to CICERO Learning was an enriching experience which showed that many of the researchers share LLLP’s humanistic vision of education where a learner-centred approach, the well-being of learners and the development of transversal skills are valued. It was also interesting to see how the researchers’ perspectives on digitalisation complement recommendations on use of digital technology in learning environments included in the recent LLLP position paper Reimagining education for the digital age.
I would like to thank CICERO Research Director Prof Mari Tervaniemi and CICERO Project Coordinator Mr Hector Nystedt for helping to organise my job shadowing and to all the researchers who took the time to present their work.