How should a Lifelong Learning system work? (Is there an Ideal pathway?)

  • The shift from traditional educational systems centred on rigid initial education processes to real lifelong learning systems has started long ago. As mentioned before several reforms have been introduced to incentivize continuing training, recognition of non-formal learning, and transparency of qualifications systems.
  • The recommendation in the short term is to continue with reforms that build on these achievements and focus on improving the effectiveness of existing educational systems. Stakeholders bought into these reforms, teachers have gone through extensive training, and countries have all developed different cases of best practices that they are willing to share.  
  • The first new trend is the development of pedagogical approaches that allow students to develop strong transversal and key competences while addressing complex problems. A good example is the adoption of transdisciplinary programmes.
  • The second trend, which further contributes to the creation of a real flexible lifelong learning system is the joint development of micro-credentials and individual learning accounts. As for many other educational reforms, these two have been conceptualised within the European Commission, but they can be easily integrated into national systems, thanks to the big efforts made in developing transparent educational systems with learning outcomes based qualifications.
  • The recommendation to key stakeholders for the long term is to be bolder. The development of key competences and citizenship competences should slowly become the priority for education systems, reducing or postponing to late cycles the focus on labour market occupations. There is a limit to what students can absorb in their compulsory education. The attempt to introduce key competences in existing curricula in many countries has created a conflict with the extension of subject-base content that students can reasonably absorb. Years of experience in integrating key competences in education will solve many of these conundrums, but in the end if countries aim at to establish real and effective lifelong learning systems, the priority should be given to key competences. This will require a deep revision of how we conceive initial education and initial qualifications, as well as what will be the role of teachers. But the progress many countries are making and the willingness to share experiences and build on each other’s best practices make this vision less utopist than it may appear at first glance.

Platforms of skills ecosystems: a Lifelong learning system model in which TVET can lead local communities to achieving the SDG’s
Filippo Del Ninno
Giovani Crisonà