Becoming a "lifelong learner" - Trajectories and identities of individuals in today's European societies
Alves, Mariana Gaio
UIED (Unidade de Investigação Educação e Desenvolvimento) FCT - Universidade Nova Lisboa Caparica, Portugal
Lifelong learning has been emerging as a central and guiding principle in the definition of educational policies over the last years, especially in the European context since the year 2000. European societies are expected to become knowledge and learning societies and to achieve this goal lifelong learning seems to be an essential tool. So, this research theme has a significant social relevancy in contemporary contexts and points out for the need of a deeper understanding of the dynamics, potentialities and constrains that arise from this general political orientation.
Within this framework the paper intends to reflect upon the idea of "lifelong learner" in the contemporary European societies focusing on the individuals´ trajectories and identities and questioning the concepts of socialization and construction of a personal and social identity. It draws on data coming from a research project funded by the Portuguese Ministry of Science and Technology (PDCT/CED/60425/2004) and focusing on lifelong learning and European educational policies. This project has been allowing collecting empirical data through documental analysis, questionnaires and interviews about individuals that are engaging in educational initiatives framed by the dynamics of lifelong learning.
Underlying the research work developed there are two main assumptions: one is the idea that education is considered a project for national and European mobilization but this has a slightly different meaning nowadays since education is regarded as a process that occurs in a lifelong and in a life wide perspective; the other is the argument that studying education within this framework is crucial to the understanding of changes occurring in today's societies. Much of the discussion around lifelong learning in recent years has been centred on its main aims in economical and social terms at a macro level of analysis, but the paper intends to explore a challenging and important line of sociological research by approaching the lifelong learners own perspectives and level of analysis.