In contemporary Europe lifelong learning is identified as the mean to retain economic competitiveness but also achieve social cohesion. Despite the consensus about the centrality and desirability of lifelong learning the concept has a wide range of meanings. Formal systems for its delivery are diverse and vary at national and regional levels and for particular social groups. For the implementation of Lisbon strategy comparative research on the manifestations of lifelong learning policies and practices and relevant individual experiences are needed at European, national and local level. The project focuses on the contribution of the education systems to the process of making lifelong learning a reality and its role as an agency of social integration. We will carry out a joint research agenda to understand better the tensions between the knowledge-based society, lifelong learning and social inclusion in the context of enlargement of the EU and globalisation; provide an empirically based analysis of lifelong learning policies in Europe and their implications for different social groups; develop relevant policy proposals for lifelong learning strategies to decrease social exclusion on the European and national level and identify their implications to relevant areas of social and economic policies. Within the project empirical studies will be carried out with regard to macro, meso and micro levels in order to take into account macro-structural factors and national policies as well as institutional factors and actors' motivation and actions. Analyses will be based a survey of adult learners in schools and universities and data from Adult Education Survey; interviews with schools' management and officials from education ministries; interviews with SME management. The project will integrate into a coherent picture different aspects - historical, political, institutional, economic, individual and methodological - related to participation in and access to lifelong learning.
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