Germany, like a growing number of other countries, is confronted by the challenge of demographic change with ageing populations. Moreover, this demographic revolution is occurring at a time when revolutionary changes in digital technologies associated with artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnologies are starting to impact on society so that governments are facing the perplexing question of what kind of society will emerge – machine dominated or humanistic.
These demographic changes are most advanced in East Asia in Japan, Republic of Korea, China, and Taiwan, so that the opportunity exists for other countries to learn from their experience and responses.
These questions have been addressed in a report prepared for the PASCAL International Observatory* by a special interest group (SIG) of the Friends of PASCAL (PIMA**). The preparation of the SIG report, which we edited with contributions from scholars around the world, follows PASCAL and PIMA international conferences held in Suwon (Republic of Korea) and Beijing in August and September 2018 when these matters were discussed.
The report goes back to the concept of active ageing developed by the World Health Organisation but takes the position that the pillars of participation, health and security, identified by WHO, need to be supplemented by an ethical and moral framework that supports learning in later life in the context of radical change and dislocation discussed in the report.
Moreover, the report adopts a societal perspective and takes the position that the dual perspective of individual and society, considered together, are necessary foundations for good active ageing. This approach has led to inclusion, citizenship, happiness, fulfilment and employability being added to the pillars identified by the WHO as foundations for good active ageing, and involving learning throughout life.
The report explores this approach to good active ageing in a monograph with four parts involving:
I. Context and conceptual aspects;
II. Some good practice examples and issues;
III. Moving forward;
IV. In conclusion.
Community and learning relationships are at the heart of the report and are explored in three forms and stages of development:
- Community learning centres;
- Dedicated institutions;
- Learning cities.
International examples are given for each of these forms. Community learning centres are discussed as Volkshochschulen in Germany, Kominkan in Japan, and Australian Neighbourhood Houses. The University of the Third Age (U3A), in various forms around the world, is given as the main example of dedicated institutions for older learners along with Senior Active Learning Centres in Taiwan, while learning cities are discussed with examples from Suwon (Korea) and Beijing. A brief overview of learning city development is provided. It is suggested that learning cities may be in a transition phase in moving to a further stage of development.
The SIG report has been released in a special PIMA Bulletin and will be available from the websites of PASCAL and Adult Learning Australia. PASCAL and PIMA would like to see a wide international discussion of the report. It has been suggested that the report, which is of monograph length, might be expanded into a book. PASCAL and PIMA welcome comments on this proposal, including on subjects that might be developed further in a book format. We are particularly interested in subjects that would interest German readers, including the possible further development of the Volkshochchulen concept in Germany, the situation of learning cities in Germany, and ways of integrating learning city, smart city, and resilient city ideas so that learning throughout life in these societal contexts is strengthened, including learning in later life. Germany and Australia share having federal systems of government so that German approaches in the federal structure are of interest in Australia and other countries with federal systems such as Canada. The overview of learning cities points out that most members of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities are in South America, Asia, and Africa, with fewer members in Europe, Asia, and North America. It poses the question of how this imbalance might be addressed.
The question of learning in later life needs to be revisited in the broader context of deep demographic change and dislocation. The conjuncture of the demographic and technological revolutions, along with other global shifts, should be addressed with policies and frameworks to sustain and enhance a human-centred empathic civilisation in the machine-driven digital age. The deeper question raised by the report on learning in later life involves the need to revisit policies and frameworks for lifelong learning and explore how these can be strengthened in this context of demographic and technological change discussed in the report.
The international stocktake of selected developments offers a useful starting point for a wider discussion of these issues, with the proposed book further contributing to a dialogue, perhaps with other partners brought in. PASCAL has a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning for collaboration in developing shared interests, which include learning city development, and has forwarded the PIMA report to the Institute for comment.
The Volkshochschulen and Kominkan were both established in periods of dislocation and change following world wars. The present era similarly offers opportunities to revisit traditional ideas on lifelong learning and community, and explore ways of strengthening the contribution that lifelong learning can make to building good sustainable societies. Revitalising lifelong learning in inclusive sustainable communities should be a prime objective in shaping the future Society 5.0.
The report is available as a free download here: Report Towards good active ageing (PDF)
More information at the PASCAL International observatory website
* PASCAL International Observatory is a global alliance of researchers, policy analysts, decision makers and locally engaged practitioners from government, higher education and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the private sector. PASCAL gives special emphasis to the role of social capital and lifelong learning, considering how sustainable economic, social and cultural development can be achieve to benefit communities.
** PIMA, the PASCAL International Member Association, grew out of PASCAL. It is a global network of experienced individual adult learning and education professionals, with an active interest especially in the different dimensions and contexts of lifelong, wide and deep learning.