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Is lifelong learning the new pillar of European welfare measures?

by Florent Bick last modified 2010-11-16 15:41


Laboratory of economics and sociology of labour (LEST)

Is lifelong learning the new pillar of European welfare measures?

The idea of lifelong learning has gradually emerged as a major policy orientation determined by European intergovernmental such as the European Employment Strategy (EES) and the Lisbon strategy (now called Strategy “Europe 2020”). This new European economy of ideas is based on hardly disputable standards given their general wording. This vague legitimization results from the capacity of these standards to include different regimes of action. For example the title of the resolution adopted by the Brussels European Council in 2003 – “diverse systems, shared goals” – is evidence of the need to adapt at least initially to the various national policies. Isn’t the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) based on possibly flexible interpretation?

While these ideas are not prescriptive, they frame national reforms around key orientations towards supporting employability, a notion which in itself is subject to many definitions:

· Emphasis put on the need for individuals to take initiatives within and beyond education systems

· The promotion of competences rather than qualifications

The purpose is to foster common reflection based on the benchmarking of existing practice towards differentiated application according to initial heterogeneities. Therefore, this European hermeneutics de facto compares several conceptions of good practice.

In the end it is the whole learning path of each individual that is regulated by the labour market: no institutional sanctuary, not even basic education, can escape the re-examination that this exhaustive understanding of specific or sustainable learning opportunities calls for as part of access to the labour market and social inclusion.

In addition, I assume that the growing political success of this “idea” results from the resonance it found in the reflection on the evolution of welfare. It indeed fosters the creation of new modes to cover social risks such as unemployment or obsolete qualifications. In this regard, isn’t lifelong learning called to become a major component of a possible Social Investment State likely to replace the post-WWII welfare state or supplement it (Esping-Andersen)?.

Education et sociétés
Numéro 21
Former des élites dans un monde incertain
Coordonné par Yves Dutercq
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Association internationale des sociologues de langue françaiseComité de recherche n °7 Éducation, Formation, Socialisation
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