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Procedure : 2001/2088(COS)
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Document selected : A5-0322/2001

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Tuesday, 23 October 2001 - Strasbourg
Lifelong learning (Rule 62)

European Parliament resolution on the Commission Memorandum on Lifelong Learning (SEC(2000) 1832 ) - C5-0192/2001 - 2001/2088(COS) )

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the Commission memorandum (SEC(2000) 1832 - C5-0192/2001 ),

-  having regard to the European Year of Lifelong Learning (1996) and its resolution of 8 September 2000 on the report on the implementation, results and overall assessment of the European Year of Lifelong Learning (1996)(1) ,

-  having regard to the Luxembourg European Council (1997) which made increased employability and adaptability through training a priority topic in the "employment guidelines",

-  having regard to the conclusions of the Lisbon, Feira and Stockholm European Councils,

-  having regard to the OECD publication "Education policy analyses",

-  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular Article 14 thereof, which guarantees that everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training,

-  having regard to Articles 149 and 150 of the EC Treaty,

-  having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having delegated the power of decision to the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport under Rule 62 of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport and the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A5-0322/2001 ),

A.  whereas we are living in a rapidly changing 'knowledge society' characterised by the continual introduction of new technology, and the exponential growth in the quantity of information and in the speed with which this information is spread,

B.  whereas the knowledge society can considerably improve the quality of life and work for everyone, provided that at the same time policy measures are taken to guarantee equal chances for everyone to participate actively in that society,

C.  whereas the present-day economy, based chiefly on knowledge and mobility, makes it necessary for everyone to have the opportunity to add to their skills so that they are able to face up to potential new risks linked to the rapid development of society and the new technologies; whereas, in particular, merely obtaining a qualification no longer determines one's career for the rest of one's life; whereas the traditional pattern of life (study-work-retirement) is coming under pressure,

D.  whereas, according to OECD studies, people with higher education qualifications have easier access to lifelong learning, continuing education, training and re-training, and whereas access to information regarding training offered for those without higher education should therefore be improved,

E.  having regard to the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council seeking to make the European Union the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy and society,

F.  whereas the European lifelong learning project forms part of the wider policy framework of future education and training objectives; whereas this European project cannot be divorced from other specific European policy issues such as employment, social policy, mobility, ICT and e-learning,

G.  whereas lifelong learning concerns all socio-economic sectors, workers, employees, academics, management, researchers and others, and this diversity should be taken into account by the Union and the Member States when setting up training programmes and their funding,

H.  whereas enlargement will change the market for employment and vocational training,

I.  whereas the "employment guidelines", which have been used since 1997 to coordinate the employment policies of the Member States, include lifelong learning as one of their priorities; whereas the 2001 guidelines to the Member States call for target figures to be set for the participation of people in the 25-64 age bracket in lifelong learning and call on both sides of industry to negotiate on subjects such as participation in training,

1.  Supports the strategy, outlined by the Commission, of initiating a broad social debate on lifelong learning;

2.  Is convinced that lifelong learning is a social necessity but should also be a social right for everyone;

3.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the concrete policy measures on lifelong learning are based on the following principles:

democratisation and the principle of equality: lifelong learning should replace the notion of (in most cases) a single educational opportunity with that of several opportunities for learning and acquiring new skills during the course of one's life, i.e. the creation of "life chances': each individual must have equal opportunities as regards lifelong learning;
individual personality development: the notion of lifelong learning should be an answer to each individual's need to add to and expand his or her skills and obtain inner enrichment;
the individual right to lifelong learning: the concept of lifelong learning should give concrete form to each individual's right to education and training;
personal responsibility: the concept of lifelong learning should also be aimed at a person's growth in terms of citizenship and sense of responsibility;
a holistic approach to learning: "learning" cannot mean just the development of knowledge and a purely functional approach with a view, for example, to employment: learning should also be aimed at attitude-forming;

4.  Notes that lifelong learning sometimes calls for a radical change in policy on education, training and the labour market and sometimes for supporting measures, such as:

development of priority action areas based on the need for a balance between economic motives (employability of the individual) and social and cultural motives (individual personality development) and social integration;
integrating the concept of lifelong learning into school education so that the certificate acquired is not seen as the last before professional life but rather as the first and so that other certificates may be obtained during working life, whatever the field of activity;
giving express consideration to the most vulnerable groups which do not have easy access to information on the possibilities for lifelong learning;
incorporating the "joy of learning" into the process of learning, especially by encouraging teaching methods which place emphasis on support, assistance and guidance;
active support for educational and training projects for adults, entitling all to equal opportunities, regardless of age or sex;
encouraging new forms of learning alongside traditional learning at educational establishments, recognition and certification of experience and abilities acquired, including in a non-formal context, and recognition of experience acquired abroad as well (equivalence of diplomas and certificates);
wider social recognition of the achievements of individuals who improve their level of skills through lifelong learning projects;
encouraging all those involved on the one hand to see lifelong learning as progress for society and the individual, and on the other hand to shoulder their responsibilities (funding of training, time available, recognition of skills acquired, etc.): this concerns the Member State governments, the European Union, industry and individuals;
seeking adequate funding to promote and set up lifelong learning programmes: ESF, ERDF, Structural Funds, EIB, etc.;

5.  Considers that, if lifelong learning is to be effective, a distinction needs to be made among the large segments of which it is composed so as to organise programmes with a definite profile and coherent objectives; considers that a distinction needs to be drawn between courses targeted at the incorporation of new knowledge into professions, and courses aimed at the acquisition of the skills necessary for social integration;

6.  Considers that the efforts of the Union, the Member States and the regions with regard to lifelong learning must be aligned by the open coordination method, with common objectives, guidelines, indicators and benchmarking on the basis of best practice in Member States, regular monitoring and evaluation of the progress made; calls on the Commission to draft proposals for Member States to act and calls for the European Parliament to be involved in these activities;

7.  Calls on the Commission to define lifelong learning concepts clearly in the proposals it draws up in the future, differentiating between:

training to make good failure at school or designed to ensure that disadvantaged or minority groups acquire basic education and culture,
distance learning for adults in areas contributing to general and cultural education, including the new technologies,
professional qualifications in regulated and non-regulated areas,
training geared to employment and labour integration, regardless of the student's age,
the acquisition of new qualifications to adapt and renew skills in the face of the demands of the new labour market, including the new technologies,
lifelong learning for professionals, lecturers and researchers as a means of updating knowledge;

8.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure greater coordination of existing funding in order as far as possible to guarantee the right to education and access to vocational and continuing training for each citizen;

9.  Calls on the Member States, in the context of the 2002 Employment Guidelines, to set specific objectives and adopt practical measures, organised according to age group and level of training, for participation in education and training measures;

10.  Calls on the Commission to announce, by the end of 2001, the action plan which it envisages in the area of lifelong learning, involving the European Parliament in its reflections;

11.  Calls on both sides of industry to ensure as a matter of urgency, in implementation of the "employment guidelines" and the social agenda, that binding agreements are reached regarding the right to lifelong learning at European level;

12.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, through the method of open coordination, to devise a system broadly based on "credits" bringing together existing evaluation and recognition instruments in a coherent, transparent system covering not only regular but also irregular and informal experience;

13.  Calls on the Commission, to apply the principle of mainstreaming to the lifelong learning policy, as to other areas, so that lifelong learning can be horizontally integrated into the operation of the ESF and into Community programmes;

14.  Calls on the Commission to include in the lifelong learning and training process workers who are not nationals of a Member State but who have acquired the right to work;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to draft proposals for the funding of the lifelong learning project; urges that the EIB be involved in these proposals, given that the development of human capital is an integral part of the EIB's new package of tasks;

16.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, under their common responsibility and on the basis of best practice, to adopt promotion measures at individual level; supports in this context the system of "individual learning accounts" as used, for example, in the UK and in Sweden;

17.  Stresses the impact of enlargement on the labour and training market and calls on the Commission to take this into account in the priorities and actions which it is to undertake in the area of lifelong learning;

Lifelong Learning and Employment

18.  Stresses that the adaptation of education and training systems with a view to integrating the concept of lifelong learning is - in conformity with the principle of subsidiarity - primarily a matter of the Member States; takes the view, however, that a jointly coordinated effort at EU-level is desirable to enable Member States to exchange examples of good practice; considers, therefore, the open coordinating method the right framework for setting common objectives for lifelong learning;

19.  Considers that the primary obstacles to the development of lifelong learning systems are the lack of agreements and the fundamental disagreements on forms of funding and the setting of priorities;

20.  Believes that the choices and priority issues need to be identified to allow political action to concentrate on the essentials;

21.  Believes that there is a direct link between quality of work and lifelong learning, and therefore calls on the Commission to explain how the policies on lifelong learning, quality of work and the organisation of work can be mutually supportive;

22.  Considers it important for lifelong education to be included as a clear priority for political action, in order to ensure employability, which is a vital prerequisite for active citizenship, and to make it possible to achieve economic growth where people are the main resource and combat social exclusion;

23.  Hopes that the situation in the various candidate countries concerning education and training will be ascertained and included in the overall picture;

24.  Considers that there is a need to develop towards an integrated society which offers everyone equal opportunities for quality lifelong learning;

Basic school systems

25.  Raises the question of how the basic school systems in the Member States, which are the foundation for lifelong learning, may be improved in quality and transformed to meet present and future needs;

26.  Points to the widespread need for modern, appropriately sized school buildings, equipment that meets modern educational standards and, for teaching purposes, smaller classes, access to new technologies, use of computers, knowledge of programmes and Internet connections;

27.  Considers that teachers, as key individuals in a knowledge-based society, must have access to facilities to enable them to upgrade their knowledge and a greater range of further training geared to the needs of society and, in view of the importance of their social role, appropriate pay and proper recognition of their activity;

28.  Considers that educational organisations generally need to be freed of red tape, decentralised and opened up to the community;

29.  Points out that giving teachers more scope for proposing initiatives and pupils and parents greater and more active involvement may improve the quality of the education provided;

30.  Calls, in order to ensure good cohesion between the education system and local labour markets, for proposals on how to transform schools into open and attractive local learning centres;

31.  Notes the need to promote lifelong learning at local and regional levels by establishing effective community networks;

Adult education systems

32.  Recognises that adult education systems are important to both industry and employment as well as for well-being, culture and personal development and therefore need to be extended, overhauled and diversified in order to meet the many new needs;

33.  Points out that any large-scale employer has to have a training and skill-development plan agreed between both sides of industry and jointly managed in accordance with agreements and national legislation;

34.  Recognises that lifelong learning is important throughout life and not only in relation to paid employment or the labour market; points out that the notion of lifelong learning should also apply to the time after retirement and the access of older people - either retired or employed - to lifelong learning schemes should be facilitated;

35.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that older people, the disabled and others outside the world of work are offered opportunities for further education to meet their personal educational ambitions and to become involved in cultural activities;

36.  Stresses that the education systems in the EU should, inter alia, support the labour market and the development of a genuinely European labour market which leads to greater cross-border mobility; calls for mutual recognition of diplomas;


37.  Notes that the necessary increase in quality in basic education will inevitably involve substantial and in some cases very substantial increases in spending;

38.  Points out that vocational training, further training and higher education, which are increasing at a greater rate than other parts of the educational system, also require considerable increases in spending;

39.  Calls for a discussion on how these costs can be apportioned in the Member States between individuals, employers and public bodies both effectively and in a spirit of solidarity;

40.  Assumes that the cost of in-service training and further training of staff is an investment in human capital and that the financial resources, the budget, the educational targets and the necessary measures will be established and organised with the involvement of both sides of industry and other relevant groups in the community and in accordance with national labour market regulation;

41.  Draws particular attention to the fact that most Member States have few or no forms of funding retraining for a new occupation, something which is particularly necessary during crisis situations and industrial redevelopment;

42.  Draws attention to the proposal that all persons should be entitled to a certain number of years of public education, which implies that those who left school early are entitled later in life to complementary education with a view to acquire the necessary vocational qualifications that will enable them to play an active role in society and give them access to the labour market;

43.  Draws attention to the link between the cost of education as an investment and as a source of added value, and considers that this approach should form the basis of a policy for the long-term funding of education;

The European Union's role

44.  Calls for an open political debate on the three strategies for education and employment adopted simultaneously at the Lisbon European Council and points out that the problem of setting priorities has yet to be solved;

45.  Supports the proposal that the open coordination procedure should be applied to lifelong learning and in particular stresses the need for guidelines on resources, organisation and links between the various educational institutions;

46.  Would like to see the open coordination take the form of a "bottom-up” rather than the "top-down” process devised for employment policy and calls for more emphasis to be placed on developing a positive attitude to lifelong learning amongst socially excluded groups;

47.  Stresses the vital importance of the knowledge of two languages for cross-border cooperation in Europe and in the world;

48.  Draws attention to the need for coordination between countries, with due regard for the Member States" autonomy in this sector, on educational programmes, student and teacher mobility, mutual recognition of diplomas, admission criteria for training and vocational courses, and exchange of best practice;

49.  Hopes that these views will also be noted by the Commission and taken into account in the continuing work on the forthcoming plan of action for lifelong learning;

o   o

50.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the European social partners.

(1)OJ C 135, 7.5.2001, p. 304.

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