Lifelong learning: The path towards sustainable development


Lifelong learning is a vital response to the impact of automation and long-term sustainable development, says Italian economist and former labour minister, Enrico Giovannini.

‘We know with automation, with industry 4.0 and all the innovations waiting for us we will (transition) several times throughout our lives. Education is important, but lifelong learning is key!’

Professor Giovannini discusses the importance of upskilling for better job opportunities and labour mobility in an exclusive interview with the European Training Foundation (ETF), as part of the Changing Skills for a Changing World Torino Process 2017 conference.

Watch the full interview on the @etfeuropa YouTube Channel here!

Investing in education – both fiscally and through smart policy – must be considered as the ‘most important driver of well-being and economic prosperity,’ he says, by policymakers and enterprise alike!

‘Automation and innovation will require dramatic changes in the way in which people will have to work. This is a shared responsibility of the private and public sector.’

Investing in human capital ‘is the best way to create prosperity and improve peoples’ well-being. We know that inequalities start at the very beginning of people’s lives, and this why education brings benefit to other dimensions of well-being.’

Prof. Giovannini’s comments go to the core of the ETF’s work in supporting better policies for human capital development with partner countries bordering Europe.

Own the goals

Prof. Giovannini is the spokesperson for the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development, which aims to increase the awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the United Nations.

The 17 goals are characterised by six elements: people, dignity, prosperity, justice partnership and planet. While the ETF’s work connects to all 17 goals, it is particularly present in Goal 4: Quality Education and Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth. (Read about it in the Live&Learn Issue 35).

Quality education helps to reduce poverty, social exclusion and promote environmental sustainability through smart thinking and design, Prof. Giovannini points out.

‘Investing in education at all levels is key from this point of view. The priority of education needs to be clearly communicated. We need to pass on the message to everyone that education is the key to success.’

Entrepreneurial learning 

Supporting entrepreneurship through all levels of education is another pathway towards sustainable development. ‘Benefiting from new technologies, new approaches and exploiting new opportunities that technologies bring in terms of the circular economy.’

The ETF promotes entrepreneurial learning throughout education, including vocational education and training (VET). The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, for example, is the latest EU policy document outlining the importance of education and training in building the ‘can do’ attitude for 21st century economies.

It is a reference tool for policymakers, curriculum specialists and teachers to develop entrepreneurship attitudes and skills, offering a set of learning outcomes for all levels of education, which can be borrowed from and adapted to fit education systems.

Data-driven results

Education is a long-term investment that must be supported by quality data collection and analysis. That’s why ‘we need data to capture quickly the changes that are happening,’ Prof.  Giovannini says, highlighting the Organisation for Economic Development’s (OECD), Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study as a good example.

PISA is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. In 2015, over half a million students, representing 28 million 15-year-olds in 72 countries and economies, took the internationally agreed two-hour test. Students were assessed in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy.

‘This PISA study should be implemented by all countries, and at regional level, because disparities can be high,’ Prof. Giovannini says.

‘You need data to monitor progress. You need to be courageous, persistent and monitor through timely data what is going on.’

The Torino Process

The ETF’s flagship programme provides access to up-to-date information about VET policies and results, identifies progress and backdrops in the system and helps shape priorities for action in participating partner countries.

The process begins at the national level, with stakeholders collaborating to collect evidence and analyse the national VET system. The data and results form the Torino Process Country Reports, which are validated through a participatory approach. The next phase takes place at the regional level, where countries share common challenges and solutions.

The cycle concludes at the international conference in Turin where all countries come together to learn from each other and to set out future steps and vision, and contributing to more efficient and transparent policymaking processes.

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