Table of Contents

Lifelong Learning in Europe

Lifelong Learning in Europe

National Patterns and Challenges

Edited by Ellu Saar, Odd Bjørn Ure and John Holford

Combining qualitative and quantitative methods in a wide-ranging international comparative study, the book explores how far the EUs lifelong learning agenda has been successful and what factors have limited its ability to reshape national adult and lifelong learning systems. The chapters also look at adults’ participation in formal education, what they see as the obstacles to taking part, and the nature of their demand for learning opportunities.

Chapter 2: Lifelong learning systems: overview and extension of different typologies

Ellu Saar and Odd Bjørn Ure

Subjects: education, education policy, teaching and learning, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, education policy


From the outset, the project partners summarizing their findings in the present book looked for systemic elements in their national education, training and labour market structures that could point to the emergence of national lifelong learning systems. Albeit some countries show few signs of a (public) lifelong learning discourse (Holford et al. 2008), some dimensions of lifelong learning (LLL) are present at a system level, therefore paving the way for a discussion of lifelong learning typologies. Ericson (1982) claims that wherever the education system emerges, it basically distributes two distinct types of goods. The first consists of knowledge, skills and certain values; the second consists of symbolic grades, diplomas, transcripts, letters of recommendation and so on (see also Bills 2003). The second kind of goods acts as the common coinage or medium of exchange that connects separate educational institutions; as Ericson (1982, p. 309) explains: ‘[w]ithout them, there can be no education system as such’. Ericson holds that a general theory of the educational system needs to ‘yield some kind of standards for judging which social institutions belong to the educational system and which stand outside it’ (1982, p. 299). In this chapter, we argue that beyond a general theory of LLL systems, there is a need for multiple typologies in order to escape assumptions of a single economic trajectory for market economies and for their LLL systems.

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