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A Study of Cities of Learning


Towards a European Learning Society - A Study of ‘Cities of Learning’

1. Background and Rationale

The European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) and the European Association of Rectors (CRE) have both declared that the Information Society, which is crucial to European development and employment, will not happen without the accompanying thrust of a Learning Society, and it is easy to understand why. Simultaneously, discussions about Socrates II are focusing in on Learning as its philosophical underpinning, and there is a strong need to understand further those initiatives which will help us marshal our thoughts on the infrastructures and strategies which are likely to create a Learning Europe.

One of the most interesting and promising developments in the movement towards a European Learning Society is the work being done on ‘Learning Communities’ or 'Cities of Learning' (which can also be towns or regions). The idea is not new - in history Athens, Alexandria and Damascus, to name but a few, were proud to call themselves 'Cities of Learning' involving the majority of the population in learning activities. In the immediate past, several UK cities - Liverpool, Southampton, Edinburgh and Norwich - have declared themselves to be ‘Cities of Learning’ and many others are following suit. The County of Kent calls itself a region of Learning. Similarly, Goteborg in Sweden, Bologna in Italy, Barcelona in Catalunya and Vienna in Austria are cities which are part of an older ‘Educating Cities’ network established in the early 1990s. Many others are joining Learning City networks.

But of course any city, town or region can give itself the new label as a publicity exercise and not change things one iota. A label without substance. Some hard work needs to be done to establish what a 'City of Learning' is and how it differs from a city which provides Education and Training to those who require as a part of its statutory function. In other words there is a great need for a study to be made of what those cities which have given themselves such titles are doing which other cities are not and to make the results of the study available to Government and Local Government throughout Europe.

2. What is a City of Learning - existing work in ELLI

ELLI has done some preliminary work in this area. Lifelong Learning in the Community (in the geographical sense) is one of its major Focus areas. Its definition of a Learning City, shown in Figure 1 below, is beginning to challenge municipalities to create action from words. It has established Learning Community Forums on the internet to collect together the copious literature on the subject from around the world and make it available to Cities. It has made a clear link between the establishment of an Information Society and a Learning Society and recognised that the community is the place where it will happen. It has isolated some of the parameters which a City will need to consider in order to progress in the new millennium (presented as appendix 1). It has organised conferences and put together a charter for Learning cities.

The ELLI definition is as follows

"A Learning Community is a city, town or region which goes beyond its statutory duty to provide education and training for those who require it and instead creates a vibrant, participative, culturally aware and economically buoyant human environment through the provision, justification and active promotion of learning opportunities to enhance the potential of all its citizens"

3. Study Focus

But words such as this have to be translated into action and the focus of the study would concentrate on three aspects.

a) The extent to which the city understands the difference between the paradigm of Education and Training and the new Lifelong Learning paradigm and is taking actions which increase the incidence of learning

b) The existence of strategies to implement Lifelong Learning principles and the way they have been communicated to citizens

c) The progress made in implementing projects to address the Lifelong Learning issues identified in part 4 below

An in-depth study would be carried out on these aspects in 10 Cities which have declared themselves to be 'Cities of Learning'. This could be completed within the first year of the study and valuable data would be available from that time.

In addition the second year would be more pro-active. Not only would the number of cities being studied be increased to 100, but also a seminar would be developed to expand the vision of City administrators and elected representatives, through which they can better understand the characteristics of a true Learning City and take appropriate actions to plan for the future.

The project would also include two conferences - one as a strand of the European Conference on Lifelong Learning in Finland in September 1999, and a final conference at which all the findings of the study would be presented as well as plans for the future.

4. Lifelong Learning issues in a Learning City

In both surveys the parameters to be studied would include:

a) Information and Communication - ways in which Lifelong Learning ideas and plans are communicated to a) those responsible for implementing them and b) citizens at large. Including new curriculum development, teacher training, learning centres, use of the media, collection of information on learning requirements etc

b) Partnerships and Resources - the extent to which links between different sectors of the city have been encouraged and enabled, and their effectiveness. Including links between schools, colleges, business and industry, universities, professional associations, special interest groups, local government and other organisations. Includes physical and human resource sharing, knowledge generation, mobilisation etc

c) Leadership - the extent to which leadership issues have been resolved and how. Including community leadership courses, project management, city management, organisational mix.

d) Exclusion - projects and strategies to include those at present excluded - the mentally and physically handicapped, the unemployed, minorities, women returners, people with learning difficulties etc

e) Environment - projects to inform and involve citizens in city environmental matters.

f) Technology and Networks - innovative ways in which information and communications technology is used to link organisations and people internally, and with people and organisations in other communities. Includes use of open and distance learning, effective use of networks between all ages for learning and understanding of the internet.

g) Wealth creation, employment and employability - schemes and projects to improve the creation of both wealth and employment and to give citizens lifetime skills, knowledge and competencies to improve their employment prospects. Includes financial incentives, studies, links with industry, industry links with other communities etc.

h) Mobilisation, participation and Personal Development of Citizens - the extent to which contribution is encouraged and enabled. Includes projects to gather and use the knowledge, skills and talents of people and to encourage their use for the common development of the city.

j) Learning Events and Family involvement - projects, plans and events to increase the credibility, attractiveness, visibility and incidence of learning among citizens individually and in families. Includes learning festivals, booklet generation, celebrations of learning, learning competitions, recognition events etc

This is a full but not an exhaustive list of parameters to be studied. Participating Cities will be invited to contribute to the list.

5. Study procedures and methodologies

a. Discussion with Participating Cities

b. Questionnaire containing questions around these key issues drawn up.

c. Each of the cities participating in the in-depth survey are visited and personal interviews carried out with key people

d. An electronic (internet) link will also be established between the research and one or more of the city personnel to follow up on additional points.

e. The data obtained will be analysed and written up in the form of a report to the Commission. It will

i. highlight the actions taken to enhance learning over and above those which are the statutory education and training requirements of any city

ii. provide a set of guidelines and ideas for action for cities intending to become learning cities.

iii. suggest actions which Socrates and other programmes could take to address the issues of Learning Cities

iv. Suggest innovative extensions to the project

v. Form the basis of presentations at the European Conference on Lifelong Learning in Finland in September 1999.

f) In year 2,

100 additional cities will be surveyed, including at least 10 from each European country,
and a seminar programme for Cities of Learning will be written up.

6. Participating Organisations and Cities - Year 1 in-depth survey

1. The City of Goteborg, Sweden, which is one of the original Educating Cities and is leading the ELLI European Learning Communities programme through its Director of Education. It will be both the contractor and a participant in the in-depth survey.

2. The European Lifelong Learning Initiative, a non-profit-making European Education Association established under Belgian law. It is the only European level organisation active in all aspects of Lifelong Learning, and among its 140 members are several which form an ELLIcities network for Learning Cities, Towns and Regions. It will be the Co-ordinator

3. (The Educating Cities Network) (to be confirmed), based in Barcelona, Catalunya - an organisation bringing together 200 European municipalities from most countries of Europe to discuss education problems

4. The Swedish Telepedagogic Knowledge Centre - a project management organisation experienced in collecting and analysing data and generating new knowledge from these

5. The City of Southampton, UK, which is a member of the ELLIcities Council through its Executive Director of Education, and is running a key European Learning Cities conference in June 1998

6. The City of Espoo, Finland, also a member of the ELLicities Council through its Deputy Mayor. It will be hosting a large pre-millennium conference in Autumn 1999. A key feature of this will be a Learning Communities strand at which the interim results of the study will be discussed and the opportunity to expand the audience will be taken.

7. The City of Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the original Educating Cities established in an OECD programme in the 1970s

8. The City of Dublin, Ireland

9. The City of Oslo, Norway

10 The UK Learning Cities network (participation in year 2 - observer in year 1)

plus 3 more cities to be decided between the ELLI and Educating Cities networks. Each from a different country.

7. Outcomes

By end of Year 1

a) A report on the projects and programmes which the ten participating Cities have carried out to become Learning Cities - to be made available to all cities, towns and regions in Europe.

b) General guidelines on becoming a 'City of Learning' - again for all cities, towns and regions

c) A Conference Strand on Learning Cities at the European Lifelong Learning Conference in association with the Finnish Presidency in September 1999

d) Ideas and knowledge for inclusion in Socrates II

By the end of Year 2

a) Further data on 200 cities and their plans to become Learning Cities - including at least 10 cities from each of the European Union and PECO states.

b) A conference of European Cities of Learning in Autumn 2000.

c) A Seminar Programme for Learning Cities

d) Further ideas and knowledge for Socrates II

e) Employment creation - the existence of a cadre of consultants and experts devising and running projects, delivering courses and seminars and helping create Cities of Learning in all member states.

f) An electronic network on Learning Communities to which all cities, towns and regions are invited to participate.

8. Extensions of the project in later years, not included in this proposal, could include

a) a European City of Learning competition each year,

b) a full European survey of Towns, Cities and Regions

c) an electronic network linking (and twinning) Learning Cities

d) A promotional programme to bring Cities into the Learning, rather than the Education and Training, circle.


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