The second meeting this year of the Lifelong Learning Interest Group, entitled ‘21st Century Learning Environments – Where is non-formal and informal learning in the Future of Learning?‘, was a great opportunity to not only discuss the importance of appropriate learning environments but also to look at the latest developments in the areas of lifelong learning and non-formal and informal education.
The event was moderated by Ms Brikena Xhomaqi, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform, and involved contributions from MEP Julie Ward, Vice-Chair of the interest group, as well as MEP Roberta Metsola via a video message, along with presentations, reactions and questions from a number of stakeholders. Ms Metsola was wondering whether we are doing enough to give young people the critical thinking they need in the hyper-charged world we live in, and stressed that “education must be about more than simply getting a job when you graduate” and “we must never grow tired of learning, and we must never grow tired of teaching”. Ms Ward mentioned, among others, two actions that are needed: focus on transferable, life skills, wanted by employers but also required to be active citizens, and the “ability for people to get the learning bug early on in life, and to maintain that bug”.
Furthermore, time was dedicated for representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) to provide first-hand accounts of their recent work affecting lifelong learning policies. Mr Youri Devuyst, Senior Expert at DG EAC, gave an overview of the new initiatives within the European Education Area, which had been officially launched just a week or two earlier. He stressed the importance of lifelong learning beyond formal education and the increasing prominence it is given in the Commission’s policies; for example, the right to lifelong learning is also included in the very first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights (“Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market.”) There are three broad objectives / work packages that he sees in their recent work: real boost to learning mobility; eliminating the barriers to creation of the general European learning space, European Education Area; and ensuring that education systems are inclusive, innovation-based and lifelong-driven. The first objective is addressed by the Commission’s proposal the previous week for the new Erasmus+ programme 2021–2027, proposing doubling the budget and tripling the number of beneficiaries. Overcoming obstacles to the free movement of learners, important part of the second objective, is at the heart of two proposals for Council Recommendations: on the Automatic Mutual Recognition of Diplomas and learning periods abroad; and on improving the Teaching and Learning of Languages. The latter at the same time contributes to the third objective of supporting inclusive, innovation-based and lifelong-driven education systems, by helping teachers look at problems related to multicultural and multilingual classes. Other relevant initiatives are a proposal for Council Recommendations on Early Childhood Education and Care; and Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. A number of other staff members from DG EAC joined the session to help answer questions.
The event also featured valuable contributions from a number of other stakeholders and interest group members, including:
Caroline Kearney, Communications & Advocacy Manager, European Schoolnet;
Gina Ebner, Secretary General of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA);
Marguerite Potard, Director for External Relations and Funding, World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM);
Michiel Heijnen, Association for Teacher Education in Europe (ATEE); and
Adam Gajek, Vice-President of European Students Union (ESU).
(You can find more information in the official press release.)