European Communities: A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, issued in 2000

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Rationale of the strategy

This Memorandum takes up the Lisbon and Feira European Councils’ mandate to implement lifelong learning. Its purpose is to launch a European-wide debate on a comprehensive strategy for implementing lifelong learning at individual and institutional levels, and in all spheres of public and private life. The Member States, which are responsible for their education and training systems, should lead the debate proposed by the Memorandum. The debate should also be conducted in the Member States, and not only at European level. Lifelong learning concerns everyone’s future in a uniquely individual way. The debate should take place as close as possible to citizens themselves.

Concept of lifelong learning

The working definition of lifelong learning in this Memorandum follows the definition of the Commission and the Member States within the European Employment Strategy: all purposeful learning activity undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence. Lifelong learning must become the guiding principle for provision and participation across the full continuum of learning contexts. All people living in Europe, without exception, should have equal opportunities to adjust to the demands of social and economic change and to participate actively in the shaping of Europe’s future. The term ‘lifelong’ learning draws attention to time: learning throughout life, either continuously or periodically. The newly coined term ‘life-wide’ learning enriches the picture by drawing attention to the spread of learning, which can take place across the full range of our lives at any stage in our lives. The ‘life-wide’ dimension brings the complementarity of formal, non-formal and informal learning into sharper focus.

Key messages and objectives

The Memorandum comprises six key messages offering a structured framework for an open debate on putting lifelong learning into practice. These messages are based on experience gathered at European level through Community programmes and the European Year of Lifelong Learning (1996):

  • New basic skills for all: Guarantee universal and continuing access to learning for gaining and renewing the skills needed for sustained participation in the knowledge society
  • More investment in human resources: Visibly raise levels of investment in human resources in order to place priority on Europe’s most important asset – its people
  • Innovation in teaching and learning: Develop effective teaching and learning methods and contexts for the continuum of lifelong and life-wide learning
  • Valuing learning: Significantly improve the ways in which learning participation and outcomes are understood and appreciated, particularly non-formal and informal learning
  • Rethinking guidance and counselling: Ensure that everyone can easily access high-quality information and advice about learning opportunities throughout Europe and throughout their lives
  • Bringing learning closer to home: Provide lifelong learning opportunities as close to learners as possible, in their own communities and supported through ICT-based facilities wherever appropriate

Relevant documents that the strategy refers to:

Stakeholders involved in the development of the strategy:

Further readings and web links:

Issuing Body

European Commission