Expert group develops vision and action points to shape the futures of lifelong learning

17 June 2020

From 26 May to 12 June 2020, a group of 12 high-level experts from a variety of research disciplines engaged in an online consultation to discuss the futures of lifelong learning. The consultation was organized by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL).

The experts worked together to develop a joint vision for the futures of lifelong learning and identified a set of measures to achieve this vision. During the consultation, they reaffirmed the crucial role of lifelong learning in responding to changing demographics and increasing uncertainty and disruption. They further emphasized the potential of lifelong learning to shape a sustainable future, building resilient societies, enhancing health and well-being, supporting environmental protection and climate action, and helping to eradicate poverty and social inequalities. The social dimension of lifelong learning was highlighted, particularly with regards to learning communities and intergenerational learning. There was a consensus that lifelong learning needs to be considered as a human right, ensuring that the needs of all learners are addressed and that no one is left behind.

In the process of creating a vision for lifelong learning, the experts also identified a set of priorities that call for targeted action; these include a need for more sustainable digital infrastructure; strategies to deal with increasing educational disruptions from climate-related or other emergencies; ensuring lifelong learning is not reduced to a for-profit business; securing budgets and resources for lifelong learning; and ensuring those who are most disadvantaged benefit from lifelong learning.


Building on the joint vision and considering the challenges, the group of experts proposed a collection of measures to be taken to reach the future we wish to see. These include, among others, offering targeted learning opportunities for disadvantaged groups and promoting gender equality; supporting the creation of easily accessible learning spaces; developing digital tools that enable learners to navigate their learning pathways; co-creating an educational commons (referring to education as a public good with openly accessible learning resources); equipping educational institutions with the tools to create a culture of lifelong learning; establishing a continuous dialogue on lifelong learning and promoting transdisciplinary research in this field; and developing an action plan and monitoring solutions. The proposed measures form the central part of the roadmap to reach the vision for lifelong learning.

The consultation process was held in collaboration with UNESCO’s education research and foresight programme, within the context of the UNESCO Futures of Education initiative. The achieved outcomes will be submitted to the International Commission on the Futures of Education for its consideration when drafting its global report. In addition, the consultation process will form the basis of a follow-up publication by UIL, capturing transdisciplinary perspectives of the futures of lifelong learning.

More about the Futures of Education

List of experts:

Mr Daniel Baril, Director General, Institute for Cooperation in Adult Education (ICEA), Montreal, Canada

Ms S.H. Annabel Chen, Professor of Psychology, Acting Director, Centre for Research and Development in Learning, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Ms Julieta Fierro Gossman, Professor of Astrophysics, Institute of Astronomy, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico

Mr Walter Leal, Professor of Environment and Technology, Department of Environmental Technology, Head of the Research and Transfer Centre on ‘Sustainability and Climate Impact Management’, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany

Ms Precious Lunga, CEO and Co-Founder of Baobab Circle, a health technology company based in London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Nairobi, Kenya

Mr Tonic Maruatona, Professor of Adult Education, Faculty of Education, Lifelong Learning and Community Development, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana

Mr Eduardo Mendieta, Professor of Philosophy, Associate Director of the Rock Ethics Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States of America 

Ms Sunny Xinchun Niu, Professor, Research Institute for Higher Education, Fudan University, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China

Mr Jim Ogg, Professor of Sociology, Director, Research Unit on Ageing, Directorate for Statistics, Forecasting and Research, French National Pension Fund (CNAV), Paris, France

Mr Neil Selwyn, Professor of Education, Faculty of Education, core member of the Digital Education Research Group, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Ms Abla Sibai, Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

Mr François Taddei, Co-Founder and Director, Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), Paris, France