Rethinking Lifelong Learning in the Context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


Think-Tank Meeting
28 September 2016

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) held its Third Think-Tank Meeting on Lifelong Learning on 27 and 28 September 2016 in Hamburg, Germany. The meeting’s theme was ‘Lifelong Learning in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Implications for Policy and Practice’. Leading experts from governments, non-governmental organizations, universities and international organizations like the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization and UNESCO discussed the concept of lifelong learning and its key components, gathering ideas for implementation and evaluation measures that will support the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

One key point of discussion was the relevance today of the highly influential UNESCO report Learning: The Treasure Within (Delors et al., 1996). Participants agreed that the report’s principle of ‘learning to live together’ can be applied in today’s increasingly fragmented world. Participants also highlighted the importance of creating understanding of lifelong learning principles and encouraging sector-wide collaboration in its implementation. The evaluation and monitoring of lifelong learning and the development of relevant indicators were other key themes. Participants reflected on the fact that existing indicators are often easier to apply to formal education, and that non-formal and informal learning tends to be more difficult to measure. An important point emerging from the meeting was therefore the need for indicators to measure learning in non-formal and informal settings.

Lifelong learning has an important role to play in meeting all seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Participants of the Think-Tank Meeting drafted a set of recommendations for policymakers seeking to harness the potential of lifelong learning to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These recommendations will be published by UIL in a forthcoming policy brief. There will also be a special issue of the International Review of Education, Journal of Lifelong Learning (IRE) focusing on the implementation and monitoring of lifelong learning in the 2030 Agenda for Development. This issue will have as its guest editors, Ms Leona English and Mr Arne Carlsen, the Director of UIL. At this year’s Think-Tank Meeting, UIL awarded Honorary Fellowships to seven distinguished scholars and practitioners who have made outstanding contributions to international lifelong learning, adult and continuing education, literacy and non-formal basic education.

The 2016 Honorary Fellows are: Ms Maria Lourdes Almazan Khan, Ms Leona English, Mr Heribert Hinzen, Mr Raafat Radwan, Mr Kjell Rubenson, Mr Alan Tuckett and Ms Shirley Walters. In his congratulatory speech at the conferral ceremony, Mr Arne Carlsen, said to the Honorary Fellows: ‘Your contribution has made a remarkable difference in shaping the work of UIL over the years. All of you have, in your own ways, touched the lives of many people and helped create more understanding and awareness of lifelong learning. We are honoured that you continue to share your knowledge and expertise with UIL and the world.’