The Role of Lifelong Learning in the Creation of a European Knowledge-Based Society

The Role of Lifelong Learning in the Creation of a European Knowledge-Based Society

Ana Maria Ramalho Correia (Instituto Nacional de Engenharia, Tecnologia e Inovação (INETI), Portugal) and Anabela Mesquita (ISCAP/IPP and Algoritmi Centre, University of Minho, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-883-3.ch114
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Abstract

The dominant discourse in education and training policies, at the turn of the millennium, was on lifelong learning (LLL) in the context of a knowledge-based society. As Green points (2002, pp. 611-612) several factors contribute to this global trend: The demographic change: In most advanced countries, the average age of the population is increasing, as people live longer; The effects of globalisation: Including both economic restructuring and cultural change which have impacts on the world of education; Global economic restructuring: Which causes, for example, a more intense demand for a higher order of skills; the intensified economic competition, forcing a wave of restructuring and creating enormous pressure to train and retrain the workforce In parallel, the “significance of the international division of labour cannot be underestimated for higher education”, as pointed out by Jarvis (1999, p. 250). This author goes on to argue that globalisation has exacerbated differentiation in the labour market, with the First World converting faster to a knowledge economy and a service society, while a great deal of the actual manufacturing is done elsewhere.
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Introduction

The dominant discourse in education and training policies, at the turn of the millennium, was on lifelong learning (LLL) in the context of a knowledge-based society. As Green points (2002, pp. 611-612) several factors contribute to this global trend:

  • The demographic change: In most advanced countries, the average age of the population is increasing, as people live longer;

  • The effects of globalisation: Including both economic restructuring and cultural change which have impacts on the world of education;

  • Global economic restructuring: Which causes, for example, a more intense demand for a higher order of skills; the intensified economic competition, forcing a wave of restructuring and creating enormous pressure to train and retrain the workforce

In parallel, the “significance of the international division of labour cannot be underestimated for higher education”, as pointed out by Jarvis (1999, p. 250). This author goes on to argue that globalisation has exacerbated differentiation in the labour market, with the First World converting faster to a knowledge economy and a service society, while a great deal of the actual manufacturing is done elsewhere.

People are the most important asset in a “knowledge based/learning economy”, because “what is at stake in this is the capacity of people, organizations, networks and regions to learn” (Lundvall and Johnson, 1994). People are Europe’s most important asset for economic growth. The successful creation of a knowledge-based society as foreseen in the Lisbon strategy, “relying primarily on the use of ideas (…) and on the application of technology” (World Bank…, 2003, p. 1), requires that every citizen be equipped with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve this.

In this context, Universities will play an important role, not only in the education and training of youth but also by providing opportunities for LLL, helping citizens, of all ages, to update and add to the knowledge acquired in their initial education. LLL implies that learning should take place at all stages of the lifecycle (from cradle to grave) and, even that it should be “life-wide” (European Commission, 2001)—that is embedded in all life contexts, be they school, workplace, the home or the community (Green, 2002, p. 613).

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Background

LLL ideas and practices are far from being a new phenomenon, as for many generations “learning throughout life” has been a necessity in order to survive in times of intensified change. Nevertheless, the term “lifelong learning” did not enter the international debate until the 1970’s when it gained currency at an accelerating rate, along with the concept of the “learning society” and the “learning organization”. These latter concepts both describe and advocate particular partners in the learning process (Ryan, 2003, p. 1).

Among the leading intergovernmental bodies advocating LLL are the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the G8, the World Bank, the Council of Europe and the European Union (as addressed later in this paper). The discourse of such organizations was influential for the development of the LLL concept, which, in its “initial phase, inspired by humanistic ideals, had broad social and cultural objectives” (Dehmel, 2006:51) and which aimed to alter the view that we should learn only in institutionalised education systems; rather it recognises that we are learning from the moment we are born, to be in the world, to take our place in society and adapt to change as we pass through the different stages in our life (DfEE…, 1998).

Key Terms in this Chapter

ICT: Information and communications technology manages and processes information in organizations. ICT consists of, among others, electronic computers, VPNs, Internet and Web portals, B2E, mobile devices, such as the PDA, and wireless connections.

Generation X: The generation that followed the baby boomers, born between 1965 and 1980. In comparison to the Boomers, only 44.6 million individuals were born during this time. This generation was raised on television and personal computers.

VPN: Virtual private networks are used within organizations to provide access from a remote worker to private company-related information over a publicly accessible network.

Generation Y: Also known as N-Gen (Net Generation) or Millennials; consist of individuals born between 1977 and 2003. This group is considered to be a generation that has grown up with the Internet and digital devices as part of their everyday life.

PDA: Portable digital assistants, such as the pocket-PC, are electronic, wireless hand-held devices function as a cell phone, a computer (can access e-mail and the Internet), a camera, a digital audio recorder, and can play music.

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