25.05.2012 - ODG

Sixty Years on, Lifelong Learning Comes of Age

© UNESCO/Cynthia Guttman - Happy Birthday: Director-General and UIL Director with staff and friends of the Institute, Hamburg, 24 May

When it comes to defining what education should look like in the future, elected officials, academic experts and multilateral partners all shared the same conviction during celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg on 24 May.

“Lifelong learning is about the kind of society we need for a better future. It reaches beyond the walls of classrooms and formal education, to take in all forms of non-formal and informal learning,” said Director-General Irina Bokova. “It calls for creating opportunities in all settings, for all women and men, at all ages. It demands dedicated national strategies and effective capacity, strong partnerships with civil society and the private sector, and expert advice and support. ”

During a celebration at the Senate Guesthouse, Ms Dorothee Stapelfeldt, the Second Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, affirmed that the Institute “takes up of the most pressing subject of our times – lifelong learning,” and pledged the city’s continued support to its mission.  Mr Arne Carlsen, the Institute’s Director, noted that “more and more countries all over the world are developing frameworks for lifelong learning and organizing adult education in news ways to adapt to new trends. Higher education is playing a role through tailoring courses to the needs of lifelong learning.”

During a private meeting with the Director-General, Mr Olaf Scholz, the Mayor of Hamburg and a former Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, stressed the importance of lifelong learning, training and vocational skills for economic growth. “The problem is not the lack of work, but the lack of skilled workers. As politicians, we can influence this through the education system, vocational training and lifelong learning,” he said, referring to several schemes underway in his City -- including reaching out to youth, who drop out of school before 18 years old and financial support to complement qualifications obtained in another country.

A panel at the University of Hamburg, a longtime partner of the Institute, highlighted perspectives from Africa, Europe and the World Bank on lifelong learning. For Mr Mamadou Ndoye,  former Minister of Basic Education and National Languages of Senegal, “lifelong learning is a vital necessity for Africa, for building economies based on knowledge and innovation. It requires a subversion of dominant practices in education, the renewal of a culture of quality that does not mean elitism but successful learning by all and the ability to use knowledge.”

Describing the University of Hamburg as a “gateway to the world of knowledge and science,” Vice President Professor Rosemarie Mielke outlined several areas of cooperation with the Institute, including modules on both capacity development and climate education, as well as research on intercultural education and literacy. The University has carried out studies on functional illiteracy in Germany, and foresees further collaboration with the Institute through the secondment of professors to further enhance research on lifelong learning.

During her daylong stay, the Director-General visited the premises of the Institute for Lifelong Learning, a villa registered as historic monument, and met with the staff comprising 32 people from 17 countries.


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