Highlight Round table: Theory, policy and practice in lifelong learning

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Subject How can organisations foster lifelong learning? (Barry Nyhan et al.)
Outline The European political educational goals of ‘lifelong learning’ and the creation of ‘knowledge societies’ or ‘knowledge economies’ can only be attained if the organisations in which people work are also organisations in which they are learning. So, work organisations must become, at the same time, learning organisations.
     In order to build learning organisations, one has to ensure that a) there is coherence between the ‘tangible’ (formal/objective) and the ‘intangible’ (informal/subjective) dimensions of an organisation; and b) that the organisation’s learning’ goals are reconciled with individuals’ learning needs. The complexity involved in ensuring the right balance between these different dimensions, means that in the final analysis one cannot realistically expect more than incomplete or imperfect learning organisations. However, this does not in any way negate the validity of the quest to reconcile these competing but ‘real’ interests. 
    Up to recent years, learning organisation theory tended to have a strategic management orientation without being concerned with an analysis of how workers could contribute to, or benefit from, organisational learning. However, the new agenda calls for the development of learning theories that can engage all of the actors and interest groups in multidisciplinary research and development work. Clearly the education dimension must be integrated in the new agenda in the context of building learning organisation that foster lifelong learning. This is a complex matter requiring willingness to change and an openness to boundary-crossing between management thinkers, organisational specialists, educationalists and others.
    The European concept of the learning organisation must bring educational benefits to individuals as well as strengthening the organisational effectiveness of enterprises and public bodies. Europe, conceived as a ‘locality’, can draw on its own distinctive traditional strengths to shape its future course and build new European learning organisations. This entails learning from its past history but also developing a capacity to be prospective in identifying and facing up to the issues on the new agenda.
Source Selected passages from the authors' paper prepared for presentation at the HRD conference in Toulouse, May 2003 (see proceedings and catalogue of references: Nyhan et al. 2003)
Descriptors D-HRD  D-LO          
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO