Lifelong learning is one of the biggest political and societal challenges facing Germany. The realization of lifelong learning is decisive for the prospects of the individual, the success of industry and the future of society. Meeting this challenge is one of the priority tasks of education policy. The Concept for Lifelong Learning is therefore committed to the goal of making increased use of Germany's most important resource - education - in order to promote economic dynamism and personal career opportunities.
Globalization and the knowledge society are confronting people with great challenges which are made even more demanding as a result of demographic change. Lifelong learning must serve to continuously adapt and expand knowledge and the ability to apply the knowledge acquired. Only thus can individuals maintain and enhance their personal situation, their societal participation and their employability. The "value of learning" must therefore be enhanced, irrespective of whether a person's motives for learning are primarily to develop their employability, to exercise civic engagement, or of a purely personal nature. Particular account must be taken of Germany's position as a country of integration. If integration is to succeed, all those responsible for lifelong learning must help to enable everyone to develop their full potential. Learning German is an essential precondition for successful integration.
Life and work in the knowledge society and the special importance of developing human resources have already helped to enhance the reputation of lifelong learning. If we are to increase participation in continuing education, we must improve the opportunities for learning throughout a person's life and make these opportunities more attractive by creating new incentives and removing existing obstacles.
In other words, the realization of lifelong learning affects all fields of education. The factors which determine a person's willingness to undergo continuing education are essentially established by his or her motivation and ability to learn independently. This begins with early childhood education and continues with education and training at schools, during vocational training and at institutions of higher education. School-leaving qualifications form the basis for every educational biography. Everyone must therefore be enabled to achieve such qualifications. School education and sound initial training provide the best basis for further learning. Initial training followed by high-quality continuing training can provide an equal alternative to Abitur and a degree. At the same time, learning must remain attractive for people in their final phase of working life and for people who have already retired. On the one hand, this helps them to retain their knowledge and competencies and, on the other hand, it enables them to participate in society and gain recognition for their experience.
The Federal Government approved the Concept for Lifelong Learning on 23 April 2008. The concept links up with the measures which have been introduced under the Federal Government's Qualification Initiative. These include:
The concept for continuing education focuses on the following fields: The initiatives are based on the empirical finding that participation in continuing education in Germany is low by international comparison. In particular, people with low qualifications are underrepresented in continuing education. The Federal Government is therefore largely following the recommendations of the Committee on Innovation in Continuing Training. The BMBF intends to achieve the following targets by 2015 (figures apply to 25-64 year-olds following completion of initial training):
Here it is important to:
The measures which have been introduced to achieve these aims include inter alia:
The Federal Government is introducing a "continuing education grant" to support the willingness of each and every individual to make their own provision for a successful vocational biography by investing their own financial resources in personal, general and vocational further education and training. Financial incentives will be provided to motivate and enable more people to invest in further education. Expenditure on education must be regarded as an investment - also by people who have not invested in their own further education in the past.
People can only make informed and responsible decisions if they have an overview of the educational opportunities available. However, many people consider the current situation to be unclear due to the wide range of education schemes offered. Educational counselling is a key element for successful lifelong learning. It is therefore essential to expand and develop educational counselling, to make the range of schemes more transparent and increase the professionalism of staff employed in this field.
Transparency and information regarding quality are an important part of quality assurance against a competitive background. The Stiftung Warentest's continuing education tests help to make quality assurance in continuing education particularly transparent for consumers. The Stiftung Warentest's tests will be continued following a successful trial phase.
Many decisions in education are taken at regional level where a large number of different agencies are responsible for individual areas - ranging from youth welfare departments to school providers and continuing education institutions. We intend to strengthen educational cooperation in the regions through the "Local Learning" initiative and the introduction of regional educational monitoring. The BMBF will work closely with German foundations to achieve this goal.
If we are to meet the demand for skilled staff effectively and to make use of all educational resources, we need schemes which keep an eye both on the qualifications required and on the specific situation of the people concerned. It may be that groups of people who are often regarded as "problematical" -for example unemployed engineers or students who have dropped out of university without a degree -do in fact have valuable skills if they are approached in the right way.
Improving flexibility and integration between different fields of education is a decisive precondition for providing everyone with the opportunity to unfold and develop their individual talents. The efficient organization of lifelong learning demands improved links between places of learning and the optimization of the various educational pathways.
Furthermore, the Federal Government and the Länder are currently drafting measures to improve transfer opportunities as a key element of the Qualification Initiative. These measures will be presented in the Autumn. The aim is to make it easier for and encourage people with vocational qualifications to enter university, for example through specific cross-Länder agreements. There are also plans for a Federal Government-Länder initiative to expand the range of higher education courses that can be taken during employment, including for example a specific continuing education initiative for unemployed engineers.
The education system must provide better opportunities for making use of the potential of immigrants to contribute to their own individual development as well as to overall societal development. Corresponding measures (e.g. job-related language training) should be introduced to support the integration of migrants in the community and to encourage learning in civil society.
In order to effectively shape these and future measures to promote lifelong learning, we must intensify and continually update our knowledge on the processes and effects of lifelong learning. A research and development programme on lifelong learning is to be launched for this purpose. Its results will help to provide the basis for devising and implementing innovative ideas in those areas where measures cannot currently be implemented due to gaps in research knowledge. Basic research in the field of lifelong learning will also be expanded.
Deutsche Version dieser Seite