This March the world famous adult education theoretician and philosopher professor Peter Jarvis from Great Britain visited Estonia. He met the adult educators and sociologists of Tallinn University who research issues of adult education in Europe.
Peter Jarvis came to Estonia because the Institute of International and Social Studies of Tallinn University is coordinating the project involving 13 countries called "Towards Life-long Learning Society in Europe: The Contribution of Educational System" or, for short „Lifelong Learning 2010“ and LLL2010 (http://LLL2010.tlu.ee/).
LLL2010 is a project integrated into the 6th frame programme of the European Union and has the aim to get an overview of the situation of adult education in Europe. Almost half of the costs are paid for by European Commission. And as mentioned before, the initiators and coordinators of the project are sociologists form the Tallinn University.
Peter Jarvis gave an overview of the main tendencies and issues of adult education in the world to the participants of LLL2010. He also held a lecture and seminar for the doctorate students of social and educational sciences.
Life-long learning in Europe and beyond
Ellu Saar, professor of social sciences at the Tallinn University and coordinator of LLL2010, notes that life-long learning is considered in this project more than simply learning for the job-market, as it is often seen by politicians. The sociologists of TLU also link life-long learning with strengthening of democracy, developing national identity, building a sense of security, personal development etc.
Scientist from 13 countries of East, West, North and Mid-Europe participate in the project. Thus, this project assesses life-long learning in countries with a liberal economy (Scotland and Ireland), coordinated market economies (Norway, Austria, Belgium) as well as new shifting market economies (Slovenia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia).
Ellu Saar stresses that until now, life-long learning has been researched mainly by specialists of adult education. One example is a project coordinated by the Dutch scientist Walter Leirman, called “Euro-Delfi”. Estonia also participated in this project. In LLL2010 the intention is to integrate scientists of various fields (sociologists, political science experts, education scientists, psychologists, economists etc). Because of this diversity, a more complete overview can be achieved.
Political advice for different countries
The project LLL2010 was initiated on September 1st, 2005 and will end August 31st, 2010. The stage of comparing the political documents of various countries that refer to life-long learning will be finished this year. The next sub-project will investigate research made in 2007-2008 about the different approaches to adult education in Europe. The third step is to interview people studying in adult education systems in Europe. In the fourth step, enterprises will be interviewed, and lastly, the key persons and specialists of life-long learning will be extensively interviewed. From the information gathered through the project, the project team will work out political advice for specific countries as well as on the European level.
The comparison of the political documents concerning life-long learning has shown that in some countries life-long learning is a mere phrase – without tangible mechanisms to put it into practice, Ellu Saar notes. The problem in Estonia is the lack of collaboration. Sociologists have pointed out several important issues in the Estonian human development, but this has not been followed by collaborative effort of social psychologists, education scientists, economists and politicians to deal with the issues.
Tiina Jääger, education scientist in TLU, notes that adult education in Estonia is strongly weighing towards work-related training. Learning and training for a profession is of course very important, but a human being does not live only from work. A human being is also a citizen, belonging to a social network, has friends, family. In these areas, there are also lots of things to learn.
The educated move on, others stay behind
Secondly permanent schooling should be replaced by lifelong learning in Estonia, says Tiina Jääger. As long as people are talking about education – which is the case in state documents –the learning will stay centred around education and educators. The saying that the learner is in the centre of education is rhetorical. For example, work related, formal and free education are completely separated fields in Estonia. If the learner were really in the centre of education, these three fields would already be closely integrated.
Anna-Liisa Kadaksoo, Kati Kreis and Deniss Karavajev, students of educational science in TLU, say that opportunities for education vary greatly in Estonia. Specialized training is easy to get for university graduates, but not for people without higher education. So those who are already educated can study further, and those who did not go to high school in the first place are doomed to stay at this level. This is very unfair, these young people find.
Another factor that scares people away from life-long learning, is the low quality of many of the courses offered. Often a course’s title sounds intriguing, but in reality, only worn-out truths are taught there, as many young people have already experienced. Thus, the faster the quality of the education improves, the more people will want to learn. They will realize that learning is important as well as interesting, the young education scientists say.