Lifelong learning

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[edit] Introduction

The objective of lifelong learning is to equip individuals to learn independently throughout their lives. Although the term is used in many contexts, there is no one generally applicable definition. Lifelong learning is geared towards the constantly evolving requirements of the knowledge economy on the one hand, and to the learner’s individual biography on the other.

[edit] Situation and facts

The “normal” life course of an employee was traditionally divided into three main phases: childhood/education, employment, and retirement. In this conception, education is concentrated during youth and early adulthood. Today, the formerly rigid transitions between these three phases are becoming increasingly flexible as workers switch between training, employment and non-employment. The accelerating pace of evolution in the knowledge economy alone is eroding the binding nature of this rigid traditional conception of separate life stages. Knowledge acquired in the past is rarely sufficient for the entire span of a working life. For this reason, educational processes running in parallel with employment are becoming increasingly important. As a result, the notion of “lifelong learning” has been incorporated into many education policy programmes.

[edit] The European Lifelong Learning Programme

The European Union has established education programmes to support people in lifelong learning. Four individual programmes promote European cooperation in education:

COMENIUS (schools)

ERASMUS (higher education)

LEONARDO DA VINCI (vocational education and training) and GRUNDTVIG (general adult education)

These programmes are supplemented by the cross-sectoral Transversal programme (policy cooperation, language learning, ICT, dissemination) and the JEAN MONNET programme (training and research relating to European integration). The eTwinning programme promotes cooperation between European schools. Twenty-seven EU Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey take part in the European Lifelong Learning Programme; Switzerland is also expected to participate from 2011.

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