The Commission 2001 Communication Making a European area of Lifelong Learning a reality revises the definition of lifelong learning to emphasise the importance of its four broad objectives of active citizenship, personal fulfilment, social inclusion, and employability, and to encompass the full range of formal, non-formal and informal learning activity.
The main issues and areas of work identified are:
- Valuing learning: valuing formal diplomas and certificates and non-formal and informal learning in all sectors.
- Investing time and money in learning: increased investment and targeted funding are called for, along with mechanisms for increasing private investment.
- Encouraging and supporting learning at the work place, including in SMEs.
- Guidance and counselling: ensure that everyone can easily access good quality information and advice about learning opportunities throughout Europe and throughout their lives.
- Work should focus on providing opportunities to acquire and/or update basic skills, including the new basic skills, such as IT skills, foreign languages, technological culture, entrepreneurship and social skills.
In its June 2002 resolution on lifelong learning, the Education Council supported the Commission's initiative and its implementation. Since early 2004, the Council and the Commission adopt, yearly, joint interim reports on progress towards the Lisbon goals for education and training.
Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013
The Commission proposal (July 2004) to establish an integrated action programme in the field of lifelong learning was adopted by the Parliament in October 2006. The new programme replaced the existing four sectoral programmes on school education (Comenius), higher education (Erasmus), vocational training (Leonardo da Vinci) and adult education (
) when they expired at the end of 2006. The budget earmarked for this new integrated programme is €6.97 billion for the seven year period.
Key competences in lifelong learning
The Commission adopted, in December 2005 a proposal for recommendation identifying eight key competences in lifelong learning: communication in the mother tongue; communication in the foreign languages; mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology; digital competence; learning to learn; interpersonal, intercultural and social competences and civic competence; entrepreneurship; and cultural expression.
The aim of defining the key competences for lifelong learning at EU level is to provide a reference tool for policymakers, education providers, employers and learners on the way towards active citizenship, social cohesion and employability. The Parliament adopted the recommendation in September 2006.
European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF)
In September 2006, the Commission adopted a proposal for a recommendation on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF). It aims at facilitating the transfer and recognition of qualifications held by workers. (for background click here)
The proposed EQF is designed to function as a 'translation device' to make relationships between education and training qualifications of different national systems clearer. It is expected to make European general and adult education, vocational education and training systems more transparent and accessible and is, therefore, expected to enhance student and worker mobility.
Since June 2002, the European Social Partners (ETUC, UNICE, UEAPME, CEEP) are following their own Framework of actions for the lifelong learning development of competencies and qualifications. They have set four priorities, which are pretty much in line with the main issues as identified by the Commission.
- Identify and anticipate the competencies and qualifications needed.
- Recognise and validate competencies and qualifications.
- Informing, supporting and providing guidance.
- Mobilising resources.
The Social Partners' agreement is being followed up with annual progress reports covering a wide spectrum of lifelong learning measures in the member states.