Inclusive lifelong learning has been an aim of policymaking at the international, national, and local levels for many decades. Its focus is on every individual’s right to access learning beyond formal education and across various domains including digital, vocational and citizen skills, as well as different settings such as workplaces, communities and homes. Importantly it aims to promote equal access among populations regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and other factors.
The concept of inclusive lifelong education is founded on the principles of access and involvement. These refer to the accessibility of learning opportunities to all and the involvement of individual learners, their families, and communities in decision-making processes. Access is the foundation of inclusion as it ensures the presence of learners. Participation requires that learners are not only present but actively contribute or respond to learning opportunities. Involvement goes further and demands that learners are not merely subjects who ‘receive’ learning but are co-constructors of the learning opportunities from which they benefit.
Cities are considered a locus for inclusive lifelong learning due to their demographically diverse populations and wide range of learning institutions and spaces. At the same time cities around the world are experiencing significant transformations generated by rapid urbanization, internal migration, and climate change. In order to tackle these challenges, cities must ensure high quality learning opportunities inclusive of diverse backgrounds and on a continuous basis throughout life.
Most inclusion models however largely focus on the formal education structure (schools, colleges and universities). Yet, learning provision also takes place in non-formal settings such as libraries and sports and community centres. These spaces can provide valuable opportunities for the empowerment of marginalised groups. Another key consideration is that groups that experience social exclusion may do so for more than one reason. Factors such as gender, race, religion intersect creating multiple disadvantages. It is therefore crucial that policies to address exclusion are holistic and consider intersectionality. Although inclusive learning initiatives must be place-based and context-specific to reflect the particularities of each city, knowledge exchange networks can help cities to learn from one another.
The new book Inclusive lifelong learning in cities: policies and practices for vulnerable groups demonstrates how cities can promote inclusion, by cataloguing an array of city-level lifelong learning policies and practices. The chapters explore the relationship between inclusion, equity and lifelong learning and provide concrete policy recommendations to generate positive impacts on the learning opportunities and experiences of those with particular vulnerabilities.
Inclusive lifelong learning in cities: policies and practices for vulnerable groups is published by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.