There is no doubt that the society of the future will be a learning society. Citizens are required to constantly update their competences, not only with regard to the world of work but in an encompassing approach to participate in contemporary societies. Moreover, modern societies face a rapid differentiation of educational pathways, opportunities and biographies. This increase in complexity from learners requires great effort into initiative taking, creativity, problem solving, risk assessment and decision taking, all of which requires learners to become stakeholders of their own learning process.
However, learner populations with a disadvantaged background or those remote from learning have great difficulties to take ownership of their learning, without being empowered. Empowerment is a term frequently found in formal and informal policy documents and expert discourses about adult education. But, although a great deal of rhetoric about learner empowerment, adult education practice too often remains caught in traditional instruction methods, fixed curricula and pre-defined learning outcomes. It's in particular low achievers who suffer from this situation, because they in the formal education system usually have made the experience that major parameters of their learning is out of their control, and thus never had the chance to develop a sense of ownership for their own learning.
PARTICIPATE is a new European project, which aims to promote participatory methods in adult education. It starts from the assumption that the impact on disadvantaged target groups can be greatly increased if education providers manage to adopt participatory approaches and methods, and this way support their learners to develop a sense of ownership of their learning and become lifelong learners. The specific objective of the PARTICIPATE project is to build a model for participatory design of learning outcomes.
The CONNECT project aims to leverage the impact of Learning Cities through building urban ecosystems of lifelong learning that harness the assets of European cities and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience for adult learners. In a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, connected learning for all citizens can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity; in particular when integrating both the potential of ubiquitious learning technology and learning opportunities created by European cities.
Two years ago Prof. Michael Osborne asked me to contribute to a special issue of UNESCO's international review of education, dedicated to the topic of learning cities & regions. The publication should shed some light on quality in developing learning cities & regions, based on knowledge gained from EU sponsored projects and my evaluation work in the field. The following reflections build on the arguments already brought to the fore, and take those a step further by raising 8 fundamental questions towards building successful learning cities & regions.
In order to make lifelong learning reality, EU member states over the past two decades have promoted structural change in order to make their educational systems more flexible. More recently, national governments have started to decentralise the design and provision of adult education from the higher levels to local or regional governments, and to stimulate the building of local networks for lifelong learning. It is supposed that those networks are in a better position to react rapidly to changes and match learning needs with demands. Moreover, stakeholders on the micro-level are expected to bring learning closer to home but also closer to the situations in which it is applied (work, family, care, hobbies etc.).
The aim of the SAVED project is to tackle school dropout through the application of risk detector tools and, building the professional and organisational capacities necessary to deal with school dropout and absenteeism.
To effectively tackle dropout a range of tools were developed (transfered), such as a risk detector, which is an interactive electronic tool designed for counsellors to identify individuals at risk of school failure and dropping out. The technique is designed to evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses that are considered important in the learning environment to assess not only the risk of school failure but also what type of support is most suitable for different groups of students.
The MMS project is developing tools to assist migrants and minority communities to be part of the society and community in which they are living. Its aim is to provide a practical approach to addressing the reality within migrant and minority communities of being at the margins of society. One of the fundamental principles of Europe is the freedom of movement as exampled in the European Year of Workers Mobility 2006. There are many studies and research papers which demonstrate the economic benefits which derive from mobility.
EILEEN stands for Enhancing Intercultural Learning in European Enterprises. EILEEN is a 2-year project funded by ERASMUS+, which seeks to promote intercultural competences and a welcome culture in enterprises. The EU is making significant efforts to eliminate the barriers to labour mobility. However, most of the enterprises in European countries do not necessarily have the essential intercultural know-how for receiving employers with a different cultural background. At the same time, often the foreign employees are not ready to face the challenge of working in a different country, and encounter difficulties in identifying the new cultural paradigms, accepting the differences and acquiring cultural knowledge.
Quality Management (QM) systems have been introduced in vocational schools in various European countries over the past ten years and it has become clear that individual schools have had varying degrees of success in implementing their QM systems in full and in an appropriate manner, i.e in accordance with the underlying QM principles, in gaining acceptance from those involved and in achieving the desired impact.
In many European countries migrant youths or young people from ethnic minorities do not have any role models in future-oriented fields throughout their job careers, neither within their families nor in their social contexts. If at all, they tend to take up traditional job trainings and jobs, as they and their families do not consider other options for various reasons.
Therefore it is considered crucial to offer youngsters mentors from their own ethnic communities who accompany them on their way to a successful VET and job career. Mentors are meant to support these youngsters as a role model in the education and training phase which is vital for their future career. It is considered crucial to offer youngsters mentors from their own ethnic communities who accompany them on their way to a successful VET and job career.
European Public Employment Services (PES) are key agents in supporting Europe’s strategic goal of high levels of employability during a period of economic turbulence and demographic change. The increased demands on these public services have precipitated a need for transformation and continuous development. For managers and practitioners to perform successfully in their job and to support their own, and their clients’/claimants’, career adaptability and resilience, they each need to acquire a set of new transversal skills and competencies, as well as embed a professional culture of continuous improvement.
The project developed a pan-European Internet Radio platform, incorporating Web 2.0 functionality, linked to innovative community based pedagogies – addressing employability, inclusion and active citizenship in an original and exciting way. The Internet Radio provides an innovative way to engage, retain and develop those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion, and its low-cost, extensibility and sustainability, compared with fm radio for example, is a key dimension in ensuring the success of this project.