Namyangju’s 1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure project is improving access to learning for citizens of all ages. Learning Lighthouses, which won Korea’s 2013 Lifelong Learning Award and have since inspired similar initiatives throughout the country, are an important component of the 1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure. Initiated by citizens themselves, Learning Lighthouses turn unused spaces around the city into community learning spaces. The city government ultimately intends to ensure that no resident is more than a ten-minute walk away from the nearest Learning Lighthouse. Learning Lighthouses not only offer opportunities to learn; they also promote community, cooperation and active citizenship.
Namyangju is located near Seoul in the north-east of Gyeonggi Province. This historic city, which consists of twelve villages, was designated a Cittaslow ‘slow city’ because of its high environmental standards and the good quality of life it offers citizens. Due to its proximity to Seoul but relatively low housing costs, Namyangju’s population has been growing rapidly, increasing by 23.4 per cent between 2011 and 2015 alone. The city is in a mountainous region, and these mountains have the effect of geographically separating the city’s villages. The city has sixty-three lifelong learning facilities, but most of these are located in the downtown area. This creates disparities in the availability of lifelong learning opportunities, as residents of Namyangju’s more outlying villages tend to be reluctant to travel into the centre of the city. Hence there is a huge gap between Namyangju’s villages in terms of the educational, cultural and information services that citizens can avail themselves of.
Main issues to be tackled
Many of Namyangju’s residents work in Seoul, which has resulted in a low sense of belonging and community. As in many of the Republic of Korea’s cities, a sense of loneliness and alienation is widely reported among Namyangju’s citizens. Building social cohesion and community and promoting communication among citizens is therefore a major issue for the city.
Namyangju’s economy is currently largely dependent on outside investment. In order to ensure sustainable growth, the city is seeking to foster talent, stimulate innovation and promote entrepreneurship within the city.
Motives for becoming a learning city
Namyangju wishes to improve its citizens’ quality of life and to cultivate local talent through lifelong learning. It is hoped that this in turn will increase the city’s competitiveness. By building a virtuous cycle of learning in daily life and work, the city intends to boost community and cultural participation.
Learning city policies and strategies
Definition of a learning city
The Republic of Korea’s government sees building a learning city as a means of restructuring a city by improving citizens’ quality of life, social integration and sense of community (National Lifelong Education Institute, 2012). Based on this concept, Namyangju defines a learning city as ‘a good community city which is founded on a lifelong learning infrastructure, providing its citizens with ample opportunities to learn in any environment, so that they can mature through learning, and such matured citizens can build a learning community’ (Namyangju Institute of Lifelong Education, 2009). Namyangju’s vision of lifelong learning is to become a ‘first-class learning city for people that opens doors to the future’ (Namyangju Institute of Lifelong Education, 2009).
Article 31 (5) of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea stipulates that ‘the nation shall promote lifelong education’. In fact, the Republic of Korea is one of the few countries in the world to stipulate the obligation to promote lifelong learning. The Lifelong Education Act (1999) defines ‘lifelong education’ as ‘all types of systematic educational activities other than regular school curriculums, including supplementary education for educational attainment, basic literacy education for adults, occupational ability enhancement education, humanities and liberal education, culture and art education, and citizens’ participation education.’ The Lifelong Education Act sets forth the obligations and duties of national and local governments in promoting lifelong learning. The Act required the Republic of Korea to establish the National Institute for Lifelong Education.
At the city level, Namyangju adopted the Namyangju City Lifelong Education Promotion Municipal Ordinance in 2007. Article 2 of this Ordinance stipulates that it is the duty of the City Mayor to build a lifelong learning city, establish a master plan for lifelong education promotion, implement policy measures, provide a budget, and establish lifelong learning centres in local municipalities. Article 15 of this ordinance calls for the establishment of the Institute of Lifelong Education, which is the administrative body that governs lifelong learning in the city.
Governance and partnership
The Institute of Lifelong Education functions to: create a line of communication between citizens and the lifelong learning administrative body; develop and operate lifelong learning programmes; gather and provide information on lifelong education to the region concerned and provide advice on lifelong education; promote lifelong learning to marginalized community members; create and support lifelong learning small groups; train personnel involved in lifelong education; maintain study records and a database of lifelong learning personnel; and run events and festivals to promote lifelong learning. The Lifelong Education Council was created to facilitate communication between the national Office of Education and Namyangju’s Institute of Lifelong Education. Members of these organizations gather regularly to discuss and collaborate on learning projects and to gather feedback and proposals from local businesses and members of the community.
Various other organization and institutions are also involved in promoting and operating lifelong learning initiatives in Namyangju. These include social welfare centres, museums, art galleries, YMCAs, various clubs and associations and private education institutions.
Provision of lifelong learning
As part of its efforts to address imbalances in access to lifelong learning opportunities across the city, Namyangju has been focusing on seven aspects.
The first is the creation of a unique ‘1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure’. The numbers refer to citizens’ close proximity to lifelong learning facilities, no matter where they live in the city. ‘1’ refers to the fact that each resident of Namyangju lives no more than a ten-minute walk away from the nearest community learning space, which is known as a ‘Learning Lighthouse’. A larger community centre is no more than a twenty-minute (‘2’) walk away from each resident, while a library is no more than thirty minutes (‘3’) away. The 1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure is illustrated in the figure below.
The second aspect is related to the first, in that Learning Lighthouses not only aim to promote learning, but also to generate a sense of community among citizens by providing them with spaces in which they can meet people from their local community and share ideas.
The third aspect is the incubation of local talent and the growth of professional capabilities. Namyangju firmly believes that its citizens are its most valuable resource. Volunteers, Citizen Lecturers, entrepreneurs and agricultural leaders are nurtured through the city’s academies. Examples of these academies include the Lifelong Learning Manager Academy, the Neighbourhood Academy, the Green Planting Academy, the CEO Academy and the Traditional Tea Etiquette Instructor Academy. Graduates of these programmes give back to the city by volunteering and actively participating in city programmes.
1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure Learning Lighthouse
in 10 minutes
in 20 minutes
in 30 minutes
The Institute of Lifelong
(responsible for lifelong learning at the city level)
In addition, Namyangju maintains a personnel database in which more than 600 people are registered to serve as Citizen Lecturers.
The fourth aspect centres on supporting small learning groups. The main goal here is to create a sustainable and self-sustaining culture of everyday learning. After lifelong learning programmes end, the graduates are encouraged to form their own small groups and to register such small groups with the city. The city then provides these groups with ongoing support and even provides seed money for entrepreneurial groups that wish to establish local community activities driven voluntarily by small learning clubs. There are currently 180 registered small groups; forty of these have established learning businesses. Namyangju’s annual Festival of Lifelong Learning promotes these learning groups.
The fifth aspect involves supporting schoolchildren and their parents. The city runs after-school and educational support programmes for primary and secondary school students. For example, Vision School is a programme that aims to help primary schoolchildren work towards identifying and realizing their goals in life. Curriculum support programmes are available for secondary school students, as is a mentoring programme that helps secondary school students decide on their career path by partnering them with university students. In addition, Namyangju provides classes for parents to help them create a supportive learning environment at home.
The sixth aspect focuses on providing marginalized social groups with lifelong learning opportunities. For example, Namyangju provides literacy programmes for such groups; community centres are currently running ten literacy programmes for 780 participants. In addition, special lifelong learning programmes are available for people with disabilities, women who wish to return to work and multicultural families.
Finally, Namyangju offers offline and online learning support and advisory services. In 2009, the city opened a lifelong learning shop, where residents can receive lifelong learning advice, find volunteering opportunities, request one-day trials for classes and buy products made by learning groups. These are the arts and crafts produced in lifelong learning classes, such as natural soaps, pottery, paintings and items of clothing.
At the learning shop, Arumdawoon Gage, a non-profit organization, sells used and new goods donated by citizens and then shares the profits with the community. The learning shop is fully staffed by volunteers and includes a coffee shop, which is run by people with learning disabilities. Dasan School (www.dasanedu.org), which provides citizens with information on lifelong learning, is Namyangju’s online learning centre. Home Learn (www.homelearn.go.kr) is a website run in cooperation with Gyeonggi Province that offers more than 800 online learning programmes.
Example of innovation or good practice
Learning Lighthouses convert spaces lying idle in the city, such as empty apartments, offices, community centres and nursing homes, into learning spaces.
The Learning Lighthouse
The overall aim of Learning Lighthouses is to contribute towards the building of a sustainable learning city and to cultivate learning among citizens. More specifically, Learning Lighthouses pursue five objectives. The first is to create a lifelong learning infrastructure that makes learning opportunities easily accessible to all residents. The second is to promote residents’ development and cultivate local talent. The third is to train Citizen Lecturers and Learning Managers and appoint them strategically within different Learning Lighthouse programmes, thereby creating job opportunities. The fourth objective is to encourage citizens to take the initiative and show innovation in creating new kinds of learning opportunities. Finally, Learning Lighthouses aim to promote communication between residents, encourage local participation and generate a sense of community.
Main target groups
Learning Lighthouses aim to provide introductory lifelong learning experiences to all citizens of all ages. In particular, this project targets citizens who previously had difficulties participating in learning initiatives due to issues such as a lack of transport, mobility problems, old age or parental responsibilities.
Learning Lighthouses are a key part of the 1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure described above. They focus on generating interest in lifelong learning and providing introductory learning programmes. As already noted, Namyangju aims to improve the accessibility of educational and cultural opportunities by ensuring that no resident is more than a ten-minute walk away from the nearest Learning Lighthouse.
Learning Lighthouses convert spaces lying idle in the city, such as empty apartments, offices, community centres and nursing homes, into learning spaces. The initiative generally comes from citizens themselves. Residents of an apartment block, for example, come together and decide to set up a Learning Lighthouse in an empty apartment in their block. They must then submit an application, which includes details such as the aims and rationale for the Learning Lighthouse, the location, the term, the support already available, the additional resources required, legal compliance, etc. The city administration then carefully reviews this application, assessing its feasibility and validity before designating the location a Learning Lighthouse and appointing a Learning Manager.
In the next stage, the Learning Manager works closely with the Learning Lighthouse Preparation Committee (comprising residents, representatives of the residents’ association and apartment managers) to identify participants’ learning needs and wishes before defining the learning programme’s content. The Learning Lighthouse Committee is responsible for determining lifelong learning programmes based on resident surveys, promoting relevant Learning Lighthouse programmes, and recruiting and advising learners. Learning Lighthouse programmes typically relate to health and well-being, culture and the arts, liberal arts and basic literacy education. The programmes are tailored to different age groups. Generally, a Learning Lighthouse will offer two programmes for youth, two programmes for adults and one programme for older people. Each programme usually lasts twelve weeks and comprises one two-hour class per week. At least ten students must sign up for a programme before it can be offered.
The first ten Learning Lighthouses were set up in 2011. This had increased to 85 by 2014, and there will be 100 Learning Lighthouses in Namyangju offering more than 1,000 lifelong learning programmes to more than 15,000 residents by the end of 2015. These Learning Lighthouses are intended to develop 300 learning communities, which will be self-sustaining learning structures run by citizens themselves. These learning communities will then share their learning with other local communities. A network between Learning Lighthouses will connect learning communities with each in order to build a collaborative spirit and enable communities to share business models, so that the information learned and resources available can freely flow within the Lifelong Learning City of Namyangju.
Mobilization and utilization of resources
Rather than investing in new facilities for community services, Learning Lighthouse programmes save resources by using preexisting spaces. Unused senior citizens’ centres, office spaces, apartments and meeting rooms have all been converted into learning spaces.
Namyangju’s citizens are another very valuable resource for building the learning city. Namyangju has been training Lifelong Learning Manager volunteers since 2009. By 2014, a total of 203 such managers had been trained. The training content comprises an introduction to the concept of lifelong learning, consultation of learners, programme operations, building a learning network and facilitating smallgroup learning. About eighty graduates of this programme continue to actively participate as volunteers in lifelong learning programmes and have been assigned to Learning Lighthouses.
Namyangju also continuously seeks out talented people to work as Citizen Lecturers. Citizen Lecturers have an area of specialism or technical skills and experiences that they can make full use of at the Learning Lighthouse. Applications for Citizen Lecturers are accepted throughout the year on a rolling basis. The lecturers undergo basic training and are registered in the pool of our valuable personnel assets.
Namyangju has recruited a Lifelong Learning Professional, an expert in lifelong learning who works with the city’s administration to build the learning city.
The budget for Namyangju’s Institute for Lifelong Education is 14,920,000 US dollars. 79 per cent of the budget goes to support for schools, 8.8 per cent to library support and 12.6 per cent to lifelong learning. While the share allocated to lifelong learning is comparatively low, it has increased by 176 per cent since 2010.
Monitoring and evaluation
Namyangju conducts satisfaction surveys and evaluations of its 1-2-3 Lifelong Learning Infrastructure twice a year. Learning Lighthouses, meanwhile, are making an effort to improve the quality of monitoring and evaluation in the following ways.
Learning Managers visit Learning Lighthouse programmes about once a week to check any problems or needs. During the Learning Managers’ meetings, which are held twice a month in the city hall, such issues are reported to the city’s administration. Case studies are also shared at these meetings and solutions for common problems are discussed.
Feedback forms are collected at the end of each Learning Lighthouse programme. These surveys ask learners to evaluate the lectures and the lecturer, to explain why they chose a particular class, and to state whether they would recommend the programme to other prospective participants. In addition, recommendations for future classes and other programmes are gathered to help Learning Lighthouses prepare for the next term.
Impacts and challenges
In 2011, 835 citizens participated in Learning Lighthouse programmes. In 2014, this number had increased to 10,402. In a survey conducted in 2011, 68 per cent of participants said that the convenient location was the most attractive aspect of Learning Lighthouse programmes. Furthermore, 96 per cent stated that such programmes are needed.
As well as benefitting learners, Learning Lighthouses create jobs by employing Citizen Lecturers. Six hundred Citizen Lecturers were registered with the programme in 2014, and of these, 373 taught at 640 Learning Lighthouse programmes. This demonstrates that lifelong learning is providing paid employment as well as enabling citizens to contribute their knowledge and skills to their community.
An important feature of Learning Lighthouses is that, while the city administration provides support and guidance, citizens themselves are allowed to take a proactive role in deciding how their Learning Lighthouses will develop. This ensures that Learning Lighthouses cater to specific local needs, but it also encourages active citizenship. Another important impact of Learning Lighthouses is that they promote communication and cooperation between citizens and the building of networks between Namyangju’s various villages.
The Learning Lighthouse began as Namyangju’s innovative idea, but it is now having a national impact, as many other local governments throughout the Republic of Korea have since been inspired by this project. Fifty different local governments have visited Namyangju since 2011 to see how the project operates. Other cities recognize that this is a valid model that can make use of under-used resources and utilize human resources readily available in their own cities. Furthermore, because the operational model is not rigid, it can be easily adapted to any village or city. The Learning Lighthouse became the role model for the national government’s Happy Learning Centre project. In 2014, sixty local governments operated 180 Happy Learning Centres funded by the Korean government. Thus the Learning Lighthouse model has expanded at the national level.
The Learning Lighthouse project was awarded the Grand Prix Korean Lifelong Learning Award by the Korean Ministry of Education in 2013. The project received the award because of its innovativeness, its major impact on the lives of citizens and on society as a whole, and its positive effect on the city’s values.
One important challenge facing the Learning Lighthouse project is expanding the range of learning programmes offered to participants. It is essential to ensure not only that a broader selection of courses is on offer, but also that these courses are kept up-to-date, that they are tailored to learners’ specific needs and that they respond to the rapid changes currently shaping Korean society. In particular, the Learning Lighthouse project plans to offer more courses dedicated to promoting civic awareness. A second major challenge is creating self-financing Learning Lighthouses that no longer rely on the city administration for funds and personnel. Finally, given that 11.4 per cent of Namyangju’s population is aged over 65, it is imperative that Learning Lighthouses cater more for the needs of older people. To this end, Namyangju is planning to open a Lifelong University in 2015.
Lessons learned and recommendations
By supporting the creation of learning communities, municipalities can help citizens to build bonds with each other, thereby counteracting the anonymity of city life.
Namyangju has found that Learning Managers play an important role in connecting its citizens and villages with the city government. Learning Managers reach out to residents, gather their opinions and relay these back to the administration. In response, the city administration informs the Learning Managers about the policy and direction of the city and helps Learning Managers find solutions to challenges that arise. In the early days of the Learning Lighthouse project, Learning Managers played a fairly passive role of handling duties assigned to them. However, they later began to participate in the planning and execution of projects. Now they take ownership of the location they are assigned to, deciding the destination and direction of the programme. They also share their experiences and build synergies with other Learning Managers. Thus Learning Managers are proactive citizens of Namyangju who take a genuine interest in their neighbours.
As well as appointing local Learning Managers, Namyangju recommends establishing an integrated lifelong learning service that creates synergies and avoids duplication across various areas.
Finally, Namyangju recommends that cities emphasize the social side of lifelong learning. By supporting the creation of learning communities, municipalities can help citizens to build bonds with each other, thereby counteracting the anonymity of city life.
Si yeon Jung
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