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Image by Pavan Trikutam


The 6th edition of the Lifelong Learning Week (#LLLWeek16) was held from 10 to 13 October in Brussels, gathering circa 200 policy-makers and educational stakeholders representing civil society organisations, academics and decision-makers, highlighting the key role lifelong learning plays in facing major societal challenges nowadays. This year and for the first time, the LLLWeek was organised in partnership with the European Youth Forum, merging with the former Youth Education Week, to show our commitment to joining forces with young people and youth organisations.


The week kicked-off with a major consultation meeting on the Erasmus+ Programme to discuss its mid-term evaluation and the EU Parliament’s Programme Implementation Draft Report, all on the basis of the 2016 annual Erasmus+ survey results conducted by the Platform.

The main findings of the LLLPlatform’s Erasmus+ Implementation Survey show a general satisfaction on the beneficiaries side, although improvements should be made as regards harmonisation of implementation rules, quantity of funds available and simplification of procedures. On this last point and regarding online tools, many participants asked the Commission to not to add on to the already numerous online platforms.

The adequate distribution of funds within the Erasmus+ was highlighted as one of the main weaknesses of the current programme, where the role of civil society organisations in promoting all opportunities and the need to allocate funds based on targets needs were brought to the attention. MEP Emilian Pavel supported civil society’s call for more funding, namely on the basis that “by benefiting from Erasmus+ funding, CSO’s are spreading the word of the success of the programme, and thus, also spreading the word of success of the European ideal,” one much needed at this time.

Brikena Xhomaqi (LLLP); MEP Milan Zver; David Garrahy (YFJ); MEP Andrey Novakov; MEP Emilian Pavel, Erasmus+ Implementation, 10 October 2016.

“Learning to live together” is still one of Europe’s biggest challenges. First theme of the week, discussions dug into the European understanding of intercultural dialogue and citizenship education. Participants all agreed on the necessity to adopt a holistic approach to learning, namely when considering the implementation of the Paris Declaration and in answering the challenge of radicalisation.

Youth organisation projects proved their central role in fostering civic engagement, largely based on their overarching approach vehicled by non-formal education methods. This educational output is of course also largely carried through by mobility (#RecogniseStudyAbroad) or volunteering, which not only develop social and civic competences, but also contribute to preparing young people for the world of work. Together they form the XXI Century skills that knit our social fabric, placing emphasis on individuals both as citizens and workers.

Building inclusive societies also means taking into consideration what role education plays in opening up employment opportunities. As MEP Andrey Novakov reminded, if it is Europe’s success story, it is also because “one out of three participants in an Erasmus exchange has got quality job. There is no national initiative that is so effective in tackling youth unemployment.” Yet in spite of existing frameworks, possibilities are unevenly distributed among citizens.

“Only 1% citizens go abroad for vocational training,” said Felix Horne from DG EMPL. In light of the New Skills Agenda for Europe and if our aim is to upgrade skills for XXI Century needs, he called for a stronger “support to the validation of skills acquired by learners, including apprentices”, as incentive to participate in valuable mobility programmes.

Tackling the issue of skills upgrading has become of paramount importance for Europe in dealing with the high unemployment rates many of its Member States face. Linking education to socio-economic considerations, discussions tackled the issue of “Flexible learning pathways”, as means to ensure the broadest possible access to education in order to allow citizens adapt to new realities, which so many are still the victims of, being left behind due to obsolete or inappropriate skills. This critical point was also pointed out by Jill Peiffer, Director of EPOS, during the Erasmus+ Debate on 10 October, suggesting “adult education be separated from vocational and education training in light of the broader role it has to play.”

Unfortunately, as stated by MEP Teresa Cachia, “many Member States do not understand the added-value lifelong learning gives to our societies. Lifelong learning gives you the potential to better your life, to find employment, but also to interact within your community and with others.” This reality was made clear in one of the main and overarching events of the week on the use of education to ensure integration of refugees and migrants.

Indeed, “we do not need to always invent new policies: we just need to get things done and implement and use what we already know,” said Michael Teutsch from DG EAC. Civil society organisations are a partner in this call. Working with institutions, they support the adequate policy implementation. However, their field experience also gives them insight into what changes are really needed, and what fails in the current paradigm. As reminded by LLLPlatform President David Lopez, “the rise of populism and negative forces that are against EU values is unfortunately today’s reality. But European civil society is pushing back and striving for a more inclusive Europe!”

“The Migration challenge: turning commitment to inclusive eduction into reality”, with Michael Teutsch (EU Commission), MEP Teresa Cacha, Ildiko Pathova (SK PRES) and Thomas Huddleston (Sirius), 11 October 2016.

The LLLWeek was also a moment of getting together to celebrate the contributions of grassroot organisations in achieving these goals. The three laureats of the LLLAwards2016 were awarded during the joint ceremony with European Youth Forum and other ten practices were highlighted as inspiring and upscaling opportunities. As stated by one of the laureates, “we experienced in trainings and empowerment programs how people develop intrinsic motivation for becoming active, how creatively they start to deal with complex situations.” This is the power of lifelong learning.

The week ended with an intercultural quiz night and the launch of the SDG Watch Europe Alliance, opened by EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. Within this new network, the Platform furthers its commitment, under the Sustainable Development Goal 4, to promote access and quality education for all and ensure a lifelong learning approach to education. Akin the SDG, lifelong learning is “a tool to help break down silos and avoid short term thinking.”

Did you participate in the LLLWeek2016? Help us improve our work by answering our LLLWeek Evaluation Survey!

Event Documents in Open Access: