Pontydysgu’s Spanish organisation is part of the EU CONNECT project. Funded under the Erasmus Plus programme, 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. The project application says: “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 ubiquitous learning technology and learning opportunities created by European cities.”
Urban populations have been growing more rapidly than ever in recent years: more than half of the world’s population nowadays lives in cities, and the number is expected to rise to 60 percent by 2030. Cities become increasingly influential in national and world affairs as they expand. However, this expansion is also presenting municipal governments with multiple challenges relating to social cohesion, economic development and sustainability.
LOCATE aims at building platforms of local community learning, media and participation to help develop community capacity and stimulate innovation, entrepreneurship and capacity for change by encouraging the discovery and use of untapped potential from within communities and territories.
Big Foot is set out to tackle key issues at European level: marginalization of the rural mountain areas and their ageing population - by focusing on the valorization and maintenance of the elderly population, traditional knowledge and specific local culture. The Big Foot approach is implemented in three rural municipalities: Berkovitsa, Bulgaria; Trikala, Greece and Gubbio, Italy.
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 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.