Lifelong Peer Learning – New Environments and Scenarios to Build Responsive Systems for Societies | Anikó Kálmán

TAMKjournal | This article is based on a keynote lecture held by PhD Kálmán in TAMK Conference Learning and working together on February 9th, in Tampere and on her publication about lifelong learning (2016). The writer examines numerous EU policy initiatives enhancing innovation capabilities, lifelong learning and the changing needs of working life in Europe. Her observations rest on careful analysis EC and OECD policy documents and declarations.


In writing this article, my first thoughts came from the impressions of the year I spent in 2015 at TAMK as guest lecturer. My international experience has been re-contextualised by the Finnish approach, in not only the academic environment, but the everyday life as well.

One of the important things I took home from Tampere was the significance of openness and interpersonal trust in supporting the efficiency and creativity of work as supported by previous research data (OECD Social Indicators 2011). Finland is in this respect as well among the leading countries of Europe (see Figure 1 and Figure 2), which has its impact according to the related socio-economic research results on the innovation capacity:

Kalman_Figure_1FIGURE 1 Levels of interpersonal trust (Europe) (Van Damme 2013)


KalmaninFigure 1

Figure 2 Interpersonal trust and innovation (Kálmán 2016a)

EU educational policy actions from bird’s eye view

The role of the EU is limited in the field of education and training. Member countries are responsible for their own education and training systems – the EU policy is designed to support national action and help to address common challenges.

The Open Method of Co-Ordination rests on soft law mechanisms such as guidelines and indicators, benchmarking and sharing of best practice. It is a decentralised approach, through which agreed policies are implemented by the member states and supervised by the Council of the European Union. Example fields are employment, social inclusion, health and education (EUR-Lex 2006).

Between 2010 and 2020, the Education and Training 2020 (ET 2020) Strategic Framework is aiming to serve as a forum for exchanges of best practices, mutual learning, gathering and dissemination of information, advice and support for policy reforms. Four common EU objectives have been set to address challenges in the education and training systems by 2020: making lifelong learning and mobility a reality – improving the quality and efficiency of education and training – promoting equity, social cohesion, and active citizenship, finally enhancing creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning (2011) delivered a vision of how adult learning should develop in Europe by 2020. Its specific priority was the issue of governance – the coherence of adult learning with other policy areas, improving coordination, effectiveness and relevance to the needs of society, increasing private and public investment, further the supply of adult learning provision and take-up through outreach, guidance and motivation strategies. Flexibility and access in the focus indicate the need of increased availability of workplace-based learning and effective use of ICT for second-chance opportunities.

The Rethinking Education (Newsroom Editor 2013) initiative was set up in 2012 to encourage the reform of education systems in the EU to meet growing demand for higher skills levels and reduce unemployment. Three areas have been identified being mostly in need of reform: quality, accessibility and funding. Reforms should be designed to raise basic skills levels, promote apprenticeships, entrepreneurial skills and improve foreign language skills.

The Education and Training Monitor (since 2012) is an annual publication that captures the evolution of education and training in the EU. It provides international comparison and country analysis, as reliable and up to date source of information for peer learning among EU Member States.

The Commission communication on Opening up Education through new technologies (2017) recognises that education and training requires investment in infrastructure (broadband, digital devices), training for teachers, organisational change and development of high quality educational resources. It encourages policy cooperation, supports the development of frameworks for assessing digital skills and competences for citizens and for educational organisations, helps the research on digital skills and competences.

The New Skills for New Jobs (EC: Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion 2017) initiative aimed at improving workers’ qualifications in accordance with the needs of European employers, based on analysis of labour market trends up to 2020 by enhancing the effectiveness of education and training systems, improving the assessment and anticipation of trends in the labour market and skills requirements.

The Supporting Growth and Jobs initiative was drawing an agenda for the modernisation of Europe’s higher education systems (EC: Education & Culture 2011 and EC: EU Science Hub 2017). It has aimed increasing attainment levels to provide the graduates and researchers Europe needs, improving the quality and relevance of higher education and importantly: making the knowledge triangle work: inking higher education, research and business for excellence and regional development, improving governance (see also Kálmán 2013).

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) was set up in 2008 in Budapest in support of reinforcement of the innovation capacity of the EU, to address societal challenges in order to foster growth and create jobs. The EIT working method is setting up networks of Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) (EC: Horizon 2020).

The New Skills Agenda for Europe aims to strengthen human capital and employability: improve the quality and relevance of skills formation, make skills more visible and comparable and improve skills intelligence and information for better career choices (EC: Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion 2017). Its actions include:
• Skills Guarantee to help low-skilled adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills,
• Review of the European Qualifications Framework for a better understanding of qualifications,
• ‘Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition’ (2017) to support co-operation among education, employment and industry stakeholders and
• ‘Skills Profile Tool Kit for Third Country Nationals’ to support early identification and profiling of skills and qualifications of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants.

ET2020 Evaluation

The progress of the ET2020 programme is subject of systematic monitoring and annual evaluation. A summary of main results of the latest (2015) assessment demonstrate the status of European educational policies: Early childhood education and care is the starting point. Education must contribute to social cohesion, equality and civic competences. Higher education systems should boost the knowledge economy. Vocational education and training (VET) graduates show good employment rates. Adult learning is the basis for up-skilling and re-skilling. The evaluation highlights that relevant and high-quality learning requires a more active use of innovative pedagogies and digital skills and tools, strong support for educators, facilitating learning mobility, supporting internationalization, strengthened and simplified EU transparency and recognition tools and stronger links between education, business and research, and involvement of social partners and civil society.

Quality and relevance of learning outcomes are key for skills development, should be stimulated in a lifetime perspective.

Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Next, some notes based on the 2016 World Economic Forum Report (2017). It is an often-quoted embarrassing forecast that 65% of children entering nowadays primary school will have jobs that do not yet exist. This statement throws special light on the relation work and learning in the contemporary environment. Can we speak about transforming education ecosystems? Technology and globalization are shifting business models in all sectors, accompanied by increasing pace of change in job destruction and job creation, by new forms of work. Among the sensitive areas, a wide agreement supports the early childhood education. The teaching profession needs meanwhile solid investment: professionalized teaching workforce is high in demand but heavily disrupted.

There is another changing notion regarding what and who a teacher is – with the mushrooming peer-to-peer learning situations (social media) but also workplace mentoring. Skills and jobs remain in focus and the importance of exposure to the workplace and career guidance: internships, mentoring and site visits. The experience of employment opportunities is more and more acknowledged. Needless to emphasize the dominance of information society in the developments: digital fluency is just a language to be mastered from early age.

A new deal on lifelong learning?

Technological and socio-demographic changes are shortening the life cycle of skill sets, whilst adult learning systems are usually niche and aimed at individuals, not at systemic collective training, reskilling and upskilling of workforce (Kálmán 2016b).

Shift needed toward a system of accreditation based on “micro-credentialing” of skills throughout the life. An important move would be transferring ownership of learning to students: the workers and learners should be put centre-stage to take ownership of their own training and reskilling by the empowerment of the individual.

A relevant lifelong learning system cannot be delivered by the public or private sector alone. Competency-based credentialing and recognition systems should be set up in a multi-stakeholder way by governments and industries at a national level.

Lifelong learning culture in the workplace is moving from “education for employment” to “education for employability” and from “job security” to “career security”. We can also speak on socio-economic side about a transition to a New World of Work. New job growth is driven besides technology also by changes in demographics and cultural norms, including the emerging “green jobs”. The alternative work formats are challenging the full-time employment (subcontracting, entrepreneurship) and enhancing the potential for individual workers’ dynamism, entrepreneurship and flexibility. Social safety nets, labour statistics, financial services and adult education systems even in advanced economies are however unprepared for de-formalization of work.


Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Education and Training (ET 2020). Draft 2015 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the Implementation of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in Education and Training. New priorities for European cooperation in education and training COM (2015) 408 final. European Commission Brussels, 26.8.2015. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Education and Training Monitor. European Commission: Education and Training. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

European Institute for Innovation and Technology. European Commission: Horizon 2020. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

EU Strategic Framework Education and Training. European Commission: Education and Training. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Kálmán, A. 2013. Developments in Hungarian Lifelong Learning Policies as Mean of Implementing the Knowledge Triangle. In: P. Lappalainen & M. Markkula (eds.) The Knowledge Triangle: Re-Inventing the Future. Collaborative publishing by European Society for Engineering Education SEFI, Aalto University and Universitat Politècnica de València. Helsinki: Multiprint Oy, 2013. 85-100.

Kálmán, A. 2016a. Co-creative Problem Solving. Opus et Eucatio: Munka És Nevelés 3 (6), 713-723.

Kálmán, A. 2016b. Learning – in the New Lifelong and Lifewide Perspectives. Tampere: Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

New Skills Agenda for Europe – Upskilling Pathways. European Commission: Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

New Skills for New Jobs. European Commission: Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Opening up Education through New Technologies. European Commission: Education and Training. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Opening up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions. European Commission: EU Science Hub. The European Commission’s science and knowledge service. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution – 2016 World Economic Forum Report. (2017) An Agenda for Leaders to Shape the Future of Education, Gender and Work. White Paper. Dialogue Series. Jan 2017. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. (EUR-Lex 2006) EUR-Lex www-service. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Renewed European Agenda for Adult Learning (2011) Official Journal of the European Union. 2011/C 372/01. 20.12.2011. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Rethinking Education. European Commission: Digital Single Market. Digital Economy and Society. Published by Newsroom Editor on 23/09/2013. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Society at a Glance. 2011. Social Cohesion Indicators: Trust. OECD Social Indicators. OECD Library. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Supporting Growth and Jobs – An Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe’s Higher Education Systems COM (2011) 567 final. European Commission: Education & Culture. Retrieved 16.3.2017 from:

Van Damme, D. (2013) Learning for Collaboration, Trust and Intercultural Understanding. OECD/EDU. Innovation and Measuring Progress division. Published on Jan 6, 2013. Retrieved 16.3. from:


Anikó Kálmán, PhD, Dr.habil. is recognized as high standing expert in Europe in the field of Andragogy.

She acted as Director at the Lifelong Learning Centre of Debrecen University. Anikó is now Associate Professor in adult education and lifelong learning at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Associate professor Kálmán spent the year 2015 at TAMK as guest lecturer.

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Photo by Essi Kannelkoski/TAMK