Lifelong Learning in Europe: Options for the Integration of Living, Learning and Working?

International Conference in the European Year for Lifelong Learning organized by EGRIS, Dresden 1996

Related publication and follow-up conference

Book coverIn the context of the European Year for Lifelong Learning an international conference took place in Dresden from 28th to 30th of november at the Technical University. The organizers were IRIS e.V., the Institute for Social Pedagogy and Social Work of the Technical University in Dresden and EGRIS. Main funder of the event (besides some support granted by the Region of Saxonia) was the European Commission, respectively the European Year for Lifelong Learning and the RTD-programme "Training and Mobility for Researchers" (TMR) with the objective to mobilize young researchers in the process of their training. The conference was attended by some 100 persons from 16 European countries - mainly young researchers (doctoral candidates, post-graduate and post-doc researchers) and regional training and education experts from Saxonia.

The cross-cultural, interdisciplinary and theory-practice discourses arising from this attendance structure dealt with the basic question of the conference: What are the social prerequisites of a strategy of lifelong learning intended to solve increasing challenges of social integration with totally open perspectives? Due to the heteronomous perspectives of actors and different target groups there is still missing an integrated concept of lifelong learning considering the implications of new educational demands on the societal organization of learning and on individual biographies. The organizers proposal was to conceptualize lifelong learning as the appropriation of biographical resources which would require to pay central attention to the coping strategies of women and men in everyday life. In consequence this would imply the integration of formal and informal learning, the reconciliation of different life spheres and the consideration of unequal access according to gender, education, ethnicity and life age.

Lothar Böhnisch (University of Dresden) opened the conference by an outline of the perspectives and implications of biography as a key dimension of learning. A concept of learning and achievement of integrity considering processes of "self-socialisation" becomes necessary in the context of de-structuralization of life ages.

This perspective was contrasted by a panel of experts presenting their experiences and demands concerning lifelong learning in different practical fields of training and education as banking (Hans-Peter Benedikt, Dresden) and high technology production (Wolfgang Gaiser, Dresden), performing arts training for long-term unemployed young people (Jimmy Crewe, Liverpool), development of self-employment strategies with women (Angelica Monaco, Bologna) and health education for elder employees (Mark Schmidt-Neuhaus, Munich). There were remarkable differences in the concepts: The representatives of private economy on the one side described lifelong learning as the adaptation of human resources to changed structure of (global) competition requiring flexibility for the single enterprises. For the representatives of third sector organizations on the other side working with specific social groups lifelong learning started from the changed conditions for individuals to be and to stay subjects of their own biographies. Public support from this perspective should secure and mobilize individual trajectories towards the appropriation of economical and biographical opportunities.

In his lecture on "Post-Fordist Possibilities for Lifelong Learning", Phil Brown (University of Canterbury) tried to connect these different perspectives by drawing a picture oscillating between the perspective of a globally flexibilized economy weakening individuals' possibilities of participation, national regimes of - more (in the United Kingdom) or less (in Germany) - deregulated education and welfare policies and individuals' needs and aspirations. The central task of social and educational policies should be to shape diversified options of entering and re-entering into local labour markets.

The societal organization of learning as the institutionalization of gender-specific life courses and of inter-generational relationships were the issues of the second day's plenary session.

As Thomas Ziehe (University of Hannover) showed, educational processes are increasingly influenced by the culture of everyday life. However, there is a difference in the experiences of modern life between the adult and the young generation which can be described as a more disenchanted perception of the world by young people. A "new culture of learning" therefore should confront learners with experiences of difference and unfamiliarity.

Specific strategies which young adults develop to organize their lives were the focus of Manuela du Bois-Reymond's (University of Leiden) contribution based on empirical data on "life projects" of young women and men in the Netherlands. The biographic synchronicity of trajectories instead of a linearity of status passages between youth and adulthood is reflected by the openness of young adults' life plans - "I still cannot spot my future". According to educational attainment and to gender she offered a typology of cultural trend-setters on the one side and (still a majority of) young people with work and future orientations based on the "normal biography" on the other side.

The gendered differences of biographical opportunities stood in the centre of Gisela Notz' (Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, Bonn) reflections on the "Emancipatory Aspects of Lifelong Learning". The experience of these segmentations as well as the necessity of structures enabling women (and men) to combine living, learning and working points to a re-politization of education in general providing critical-social competences.

The next step was to concretize the implications of lifelong learning by project presentations of young researchers in thematic working groups. (1)

In the first working group new concepts of work - new concepts of learning the changed labour market structures formed the background for the search for new designs of learning - the demand of flexibilization, the rising of the information society and the increasing importance of third sector organizations as employment opportunities.

In the second working group on the structures of new learning biographies conditions of participation in lifelong learning according to class and gender, life age, social environment, integration into networks or access to education and training measures were discussed.

In the third working group cultural differences were presented as challenge for lifelong learning from the perspectives of learners as individuals in a multicultural society and of professionals working with migrant families.

In working group four different spaces and contexts were described with their specific resources and problems for lifelong learning processes: Learning projects in organizations, milieux of students' lives, civil cases in the court-room and the development of community education in urban areas.

The fifth working group dealt with different perspectives of social participation and learning opportunities for young people according to class, educational attainment and anticipated employment perspectives, new life situations and national structures of youth policy.

During the plenary sessions as well as in the working groups one of the repeatedly posed questions was the one concerning the responsibility for political and social change towards an integrated concept of lifelong learning - "Who is 'we'?" as one participant put it.

Possible answers to this question were expected in the last session of lectures asking for political conditions of the new learning society:

Enzo Morgagni (University of Bologna) pointed to the eminence of the third sector as mediator between state, market and individual life worlds. With regard to the learning challenges posed by new media public intervention would be mainly required as introducing filters or to enable intermediate actors to do so to canalize the information and learning opportunities given by private providers.

Luigi Guerra (University of Bologna) sharpened the focus on the consequences of new media as Internet by demonstrating that not only in the context of educational policy but even regarding relationships of learning and education in general the question of actorship has to be taken up in a critical way. New scopes of self-determined learning opened up by the possibilities of new media have to be defended against rising risks of abuse.

Burkart Sellin (CEDEFOP, Thessaloniki) gave a view over the historical development of European training policies and showed major barriers of a further convergence of national strategies - especially the mutual recognition of modularized training - as a prerequisite of lifelong learning.

As a result of the conference there was stated a need of differentiation - on the level of research as well as of policy. The first differentiation considered the adequacy of lifelong learning for different life situations according to life age and generation, gender and social class. The second differentiation pointed to the dismantling of social stratification of measures delivered under the notion of lifelong learning: the provision of basic skills for mainly longterm-unemployed reproducing social exclusion, defensive strategies of adaptation and adjustment for the more or less integrated majority and strategies for economic innovators and cultural trend-setters towards new life forms and employment opportunities.

These open questions will be the core subjects of a follow-up conference to be held in Lisbon in summer 1998 again under the Commission's programme TMR. In contrast to the first event focussing on conditions and implications of lifelong learning the second conference will analyse perspectives of concrete political and social strategies considering necessary differentiations in order to implement integrated lifelong learning concepts in Europe. (2)


1. Papers were presented in group one by Anne Schwarz (IRIS, Tübingen), Jyri Manninen (Univ. Helsinki), Georg Weinmann (Univ. Tübingen), Peter Herrmann (Cork); in group two by Barbara Stauber (IRIS, Tübingen), Emma Higgins (Univ. Canterbury), Arno Heimgartner (Univ. Graz), Susanne Lace (Univ. Sheffield), Joke Vandenabeele (Univ. Leuven), Juan Viscarret (Univ. Pamplona); in group three by Stephan Sting (Univ. Dresden), Paulina Chiwangu (Univ. Cork), Susanne Hecht (Univ. Bochum), Anna Aluffi Pentini (Univ. Rome); in group four by Andreas Schröer (Acad. Bad Boll), Rob Poell (Univ. Nijmegen), Elizabeth Kenyon (Univ. Lancaster), Pia Deleuran (Univ. Roskilde), Paul Burgess (Univ. Cork); in group five by Eberhard Bolay (Univ. Tübingen), Sven Mørch (Univ. Copenhagen), Manuela Gallerani (Univ. Padova), Morena Cuconato and Gabriele Lenzi (Univ. Bologna), Andy Biggart (Univ. Glasgow) and Mark Cieslik (Univ. Canterbury).

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2. Please see abstracts of the publication based on the lectures and presentations and the information on the follow-up conference here.

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