RN International Lifelong Learning

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					Research Note for the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee

RN 01/78 30 August 2001


This research note provides an international context to the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee’s inquiry into lifelong learning, by considering the work of certain key international and supranational organisations. It also provides some comparative data on lifelong learning provision.

The note focuses on the work of four bodies, which have a key role in developing and/or influencing lifelong learning policy: • • • • The European Union (EU) The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Council of Europe1

The note also provides some data showing how different countries are performing in terms of their lifelong learning provision. Given how broad the term ‘lifelong learning’ is, these data will, of necessity, be limited to a few selected examples. It

In addition, the International Labour Organisation has also published a useful publication on the importance of lifelong learning is “Lifelong Learning in the Twenty-First Century: The Changing Roles of Educational Personnel.”

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should also be noted that where international data are collected, figures usually relate to the UK as a whole rather than just Scotland.

The European Commission has defined lifelong learning as2:
"all purposeful learning activity, undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence".

Underpinning this are some broader ideas of what constitutes lifelong learning:

All learning "from cradle to grave" …. a common core of knowledge and skills which goes beyond basic numeracy and literacy. Not only about employment-related skills, but also….updating all kinds of abilities…and understanding throughout life. All kinds of learning, including non-formal

In October 2000, the European Commission produced a memorandum on lifelong learning. The memorandum aims to initiate a debate on achieving the goal ‘of making lifelong learning available to everyone’. An action plan, specifying objectives and areas for action, is expected later this year. The memorandum identifies six elements of a future lifelong learning strategy. These can be summarised as:

“Acquiring or refreshing skills needed for participation in the knowledge-based society. Increasing investment in human resources. Introducing innovations in education and learning. Enhancing the status of education. Making good-quality information about learning opportunities accessible to everyone in Europe. Matching lifelong learning opportunities to the needs of the people. “

Finally, the objectives for lifelong learning are described as:
“…the promotion of active citizenship and the promotion of vocational skills in order to adapt to the demands of the new knowledge-based society and to allow full participation in social and economic life.”

More broadly, the European Union supports lifelong learning in other ways. For example: It has become a ‘more clearly defined priority’ within the European Employment Strategy3.

2 3

European Commission, Education and Culture. The strategy is an annual process whereby member states and the Commission agree on employment guidelines; member states then submit plans detailing how they will meet these guidelines.

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Approximately 60% of the European Social Fund Budget will promote lifelong learning, employability and social inclusion. (Around €36 billion from 2000-06). It is the guiding principle for the Community action programmes Socrates II, Leonardo da Vinci II and Youth.

Finally, as Members will be aware, the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs is undertaking an inquiry into lifelong learning across Europe.

Lifelong learning has become a key policy for the OECD4; education ministers adopted “Lifelong learning for all” as a policy framework in 1996, defining lifelong learning as:
“All purposeful learning activity, from the cradle to the grave, that aims to improve knowledge and competencies for all individuals who wish to participate in learning activities.”

There are various distinctive features of the OECD’s approach to lifelong learning, which it describes as being more comprehensive than earlier definitions. The OECD’s approach: offers a systemic view of learning emphasises the centrality of the learner offers motivation to learn and takes a balanced view of the multiple objectives of education policy.

Essentially, learning occurs during the whole course of a person’s life. In a recent report5, the OECD discussed how successful member countries have been in adopting this approach to lifelong learning. The study offers a detailed comparison of how far countries are progressing towards adopting a national lifelong learning strategy. High level conclusions suggest that while progress is being made, there is still work to be done.
“This review shows that the broader concept [of lifelong learning] has been embraced at the political level. But at the level of practical policy development and implementation, responses have neither been consistent nor uniform. There is little evidence of wholehearted pursuit of lifelong learning strategies at the system level, for example through setting system-wide policy targets.”

More specifically, the report notes that:


The OECD is an organisation with 30 member countries, which ‘provides governments with a setting in which to discuss, develop and perfect economic and social policy.’ 5 ‘Education Policy Analysis 2001’, OECD, 2001.

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“Countries have not articulated explicit targets for the lifelong learning system taken as a whole. In those cases where targets have been identified they relate to specific sectors of provision. Many countries are introducing reforms at the sector level that are framed within the context of lifelong learning requirements. Countries differ in the emphasis they place on different sectors or types of provision of lifelong learning. While all countries recognise both the economic and social objectives of lifelong learning, some emphasise employability and competitiveness while others pay special attention to personal development and citizenship. In terms of participation in organised learning activity, “lifelong learning for all ” is far from being a reality in OECD countries.”

In terms of comparing the performances of individual countries, the OECD has identified a number of important impediments to collecting reliable data. For example:
“Strategies vary across countries and measuring implementation is complex. Lifelong learning is not defined solely in terms of discrete policies or institutions with specific missions. While lifelong learning strategies should be evaluated in terms of outcomes for individuals, such evaluations are hindered because many variables are likely to intervene between lifelong learning policies and individual outcomes.”


Given these caveats - it is acknowledged that there is no way of measuring overall progress towards the goal of lifelong learning for all - inter-country comparisons are therefore based on ‘more qualitative judgements’, gathered from other (OECD-based) evidence. Some broad principles emerge from this analysis:
“The Nordic countries stand out with good performance across multiple sectors, though each appears to miss at least some of the essential building blocks that comprise systems of lifelong learning. A second tier of countries – Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand – also do well, but have certain gaps or weaknesses in more areas. A third tier, including Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is characterised by comparatively weak and uneven performance on the available measures. Finally, a fourth tier of countries –Ireland, Hungary, Portugal, and Poland – do poorly in comparison to other countries on most measures.”




Other OECD studies While these are some of the broad conclusions of the OECD’s most recent report into lifelong learning, the organisation has carried out other studies into aspects of lifelong learning which have uncovered more specific conclusions. For example:
“OECD countries spend on average about 0.2% of GDP on training, mostly for unemployed adults and those at risk. Children are more likely to under-perform in compulsory education if they enter school poorly prepared to learn. Further learning by the adult population is associated with better jobs and working conditions
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On average, completion of upper secondary education or acquiring a recognised apprenticeship certificate marks the minimum threshold for successful entry into the labour market and continuing employability. Despite the widely held view that continuing education and training are important, there are only limited public institutional arrangements whose objective is to provide continuing education and training.

(More detailed tables, showing the comparative performance of member countries in terms of selected lifelong learning indicators, are contained in Section 2). To try and give renewed impetus to its lifelong learning goal, the OECD has suggested that reforms are necessary. Critically, it is suggested that for lifelong learning to work, governments must act in a more systematic way, rather than focus on individual aspects of policy development. Specifically, the OECD has highlighted five areas where action is necessary. These areas are summarised below, and selected recommendations highlighted. The view of the OECD: What needs to Change? 1. Recognise all forms of learning Giving due recognition to learning that occurs outside formal education may be complex and difficult. However: - all learning should be recognised, not just formal courses. - countries need to remove unwarranted institutional barriers to learners taking up and getting credit for learning activities. 2. Develop a wider notion of ‘foundation skills’ Countries’ educational systems are still geared to ‘processing students through recognised educational stages’; motivation and engagement must be more explicit to develop good foundation skills among both the young and adults. This means: - giving students work place experience, so learning is well-managed and of high quality. - making learning more convenient for adults 3. Improve access and equity 4. Examine resource allocation While additional resources have been made available, in the OECD’s view these still do not match demand. - Additional public resources may be needed, with new incentives to attract private resources. - In the Organisation’s view, investment in lifelong learning carries clear benefits, both economic and social. 5. Better collaboration across ministries While the scope of lifelong learning goes beyond a single ministry, “policy coordination is today widely preached and selectively practised.”
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The Institute for Education (UIE) is one of six educational institutes within UNESCO. Its work focuses mainly on adult and continuing education, adult literacy and lifelong learning. The UIE has published extensively in the field of lifelong learning and this research note briefly describes some of the main themes. In terms of UNESCO’s/UIE’s practical work, five international conference on adult education have been held to date, most recently in Hamburg in 19976. This conference led to the publication of two key documents: ‘The Hamburg Declaration’ and ‘The Agenda for the Future’. The Hamburg Declaration summed up the participants’ view of the importance of adult learning:
“We… convinced of the necessity of adult learning, pledge that all men and women shall be provided with the opportunity to learn throughout their lives. To that end, we will forge extended alliances to mobilise and share resources in order to make adult learning a joy, a tool, a right and a shared responsibility.”

The Agenda for the Future set out how the various commitments in the Hamburg Declaration were to be met. In terms of specific policy, UNESCO promotes the ‘one hour a day’ campaign. Although not legally binding on member states, the campaign aims to promote the ‘symbolic’ idea that each individual should set aside one hour a day for learning and personal development. UNESCO also promotes Adult Learners Week. Finally, a recent UIE publication7, ‘Revisiting lifelong learning for the 21st century’ provides a useful introduction to some of the main issues in international lifelong learning. The report claims that while there is no shared global definition of lifelong learning, the opinions of international institutions as the EU, the OECD and the World Bank are becoming increasingly influential. The lifelong learning focus of these institutions is described as being predominantly based on an “economic interpretation”; a position in contrast to that of earlier interpretations8, offering a more holistic viewpoint, encompassing “social, political, economic and cultural development”. According to the authors, these two interpretations/theories can be distinguished by labelling them ‘lifelong education’ and ‘lifelong learning’.


The conferences go under the acronym of CONFINTEA - International Conference on Adult Education st ‘Revisiting lifelong learning for the 21 century’, Carolyn Medel-Añonuevo, Toshio Ohsako and Werner Mauch, UIE, 2001. (Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily coincide with official positions of the UIE) ‘The Fuare Report: Learning to Be’, UNESCO, 1972.


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The origins of the new concept of ‘lifelong learning’ can be traced to the 1996 UNESCO Delors Report, which stated the need to:
“rethink and update the concept of lifelong education so as to reconcile three forces: competition, which provides incentives; co-operation which gives strength; and solidarity, which unites”

Rather than simply being a semantic change, the authors claim that there are substantive differences between lifelong learning and lifelong education. In essence, the difference between the two is that lifelong learning is more individualbased, whereas lifelong education refers more to the community.

In March 1998, the Higher Education and Research Committee (CC-HER) of the Council adopted a major project on “Lifelong learning for social cohesion: a new challenge to higher education”. The priority aims and objectives of the project are: • To redefine the role of higher education institutions as it extends beyond their traditional missions into lifelong learning, and involves new clients and partners To develop operational lifelong learning strategies for higher education institutions and the higher education system as a whole.


The outcomes of the project are intended to be developing models of good practice, policy recommendations to governments and institutions, and analytical reports. It is intended that the project should also define a conceptual framework and terminology for the concept of lifelong learning as it affects higher education and create networks of expertise for sharing experience and good practice. The project foresees partnerships and synergies with several international organisations and networks: the EU, OECD, and UNESCO, key NGOs (EDEN – European Distance Learning Network, EUCEN - European University Continuing Education Network, EAN - European Access Network, etc.), employers and others. A number of workshops and symposiums have been held. These have discussed issues such as: • • • • • • Policy recommendations to governments and institutions The specific role of higher education in lifelong learning What lifelong learning can offer to the public (e.g. new employment opportunities or personal development) Are higher education institutions and government structures ready to meet the diversified demand? In what way should lifelong learning contribute to the process of social cohesion? Meeting the needs of all students in a changing society
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• •

Application of the new information and communication technologies (ICT) in lifelong learning Structures and qualifications in lifelong learning

A conference will be held in November at which the final findings will be announced.

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The previous sections have outlined lifelong learning theory, as developed by four international institutions. This section provides some statistical comparisons between different countries. However, there are serious obstacles to collecting meaningful and consistent data showing lifelong learning performance across different countries. Furthermore, given the scope of what is meant by lifelong learning, there are dozens of potential indicators that could be used to indicate how well a country is performing. With these caveats in mind, this section simply reproduces selected EU/OECD figures, which at least give some indication of how Scotland/the UK are performing in relation to other countries9. Suggested sources for further reading are also highlighted. OECD Statistics10 Figure 1 examines the number of people in two age groups (30–34 year olds and 50–54 year olds) who have tertiary qualifications in 1998. Although the UK is nearer the bottom end of this table, it is above the ‘unweighted average’ in both categories:
Figure 1 Progress towards increasing tertiary qualifications, 1998
% 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Italy United Kingdom Netherlands Poland Turkey France Switzerland New Zealand Norway Hungary Sweden Mexico Austria Ireland Korea Czech Republic United States Australia Portugal Iceland Spain Finland Denmark Belgium Canada Greece

30-34 year-olds Unweighted average for 30-34 year-olds

50-54 year-olds Unweighted average for 50-54 year-olds

Source: OECD Labour Force Survey Database (2000).

Countries are ranked in ascending order, by attainment level of 30-34 year-olds.


It is recommended that readers consult the full text of the reports from where Figures 1 – 4 were taken, in order to be aware of any ‘health warnings’ attached to these figures. 10 Statistics from ‘Education Policy Analysis 2001’, OECD, 2001.

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Figure 2 shows, primarily, how public expenditure on all levels of education has changed in the period 1990 – 96. There are limited data showing the growing importance of private expenditure.
Figure 2 Trends in public and private expenditure on all levels of education, 1990-96 Index of change in expenditure (1990=100)
Portugal Ireland Mexico Austria Denmark New Zealand Australia Spain France Norway United Kingdom Belgium (Flem. Com.) Canada Switzerland Netherlands Finland Italy Hungary 0 50 100 150 200 250

Direct public expenditure for educational institutions Direct private expenditure for educational institutions

Source: OECD (2000), Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators, Table B1.2.

Countries are ranked in descending order according to change in public expenditure.

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Figure 3 provides more specific data than Figure 2, by looking at the changes in public and private expenditure on tertiary education over the same period, 1990 – 96. As the table demonstrates, the most noticeable change in the period considered, is the increase in direct private expenditure for educational institutions in the UK:
Figure 3 Trends in public and private expenditure on tertiary education, 1990-96 Index of change in expenditure (1990=100)
Ireland Portugal Spain France Norway Australia Austria Finland United Kingdom Denmark Belgium (Flem. Com.) New Zealand Switzerland Canada Netherlands Mexico Italy Hungary 0 50 100 150 200 250

Direct public expenditure for educational institutions Direct private expenditure for educational institutions

Source: OECD (2000), Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators, Table B1.2.

Countries are ranked in descending order according to change in public expenditure.

Other statistics are available from the ‘education and skills’ section of the OECD’s website.

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European Statistics There are various information sources which can provide more detailed information on lifelong learning policy within EU member states11 and also comparative data. For example: Cedefop12 is an agency within the EU that supplies key vocational training information to policy makers and Member States. The agency’s website contains an enormous amount of information on lifelong learning policies across member states, and links to international lifelong learning research organisations. EURYDICE13 ‘the information network on education in Europe’, produces a considerable amount of comparative data on European states. ‘Key Data on Education – 1999/2000 edition’ is an essential resource, providing data from primary to tertiary level. The ‘EUROBASE 2001’ website provides more detailed information on individual countries’ education systems.


Figure 4 below provides an example of the type of comparative information that is available through EURYDICE14. The figure – showing student enrolments in tertiary level education in 1996/7 – is one of the few for which Scotland-level data are available. The Figure shows that the participation rate for Scotland is one of the highest for the group of countries shown and is higher than the EU average.

11 12

And often information on other, non-EU, European states "Cedefop" is the French acronym of the organisation's official title, European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Centre Européen pour le Développement de la Formation Professionnelle). 13 EURYDICE is part of Socrates, the Community Programme on Education, European Commission, Education and Culture. 14 ‘Key data on Education in Europe’, European Commission, 2000, page 105.

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Figure 4: Tertiary education students (ISCED 5,6,7) by NUTS 1 and NUTS 2 Region, 1996/7
20 18 Percentage in Tertiary Education 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
en Sw ed Au st ria Be lg iu m D en m ar k Fi nl an d Fr an ce G er m an y G re ec e Ire la nd ly AN D EU nd s Sp ai Ita er la U K n

et h N

Selected EU Member States

The following definitions are used in Figure 4: NUTS - NUTS is a French acronym (Nomenclature des Unités Territoriales Statistiques) established by Eurostat to provide a uniform breakdown of territorial units for the production of regional statistics. ISCED – The statistical data are structured by educational levels in accordance with the UNESCO international Standard Classification for Education (ISCED – 1976 edition). % Participation Rates – In Figure 4, the given percentage rate is calculated by dividing the total number of students and pupils enrolled in the country’s education system by the percentage of those in ISCED groups 5 – 7.

Research Notes are compiled for the benefit of Members of Parliament and their personal staff. Authors are available to discuss the contents of these papers with Members and their staff but cannot advise members of the general public providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament