Köln Charter: Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning

Cologne, June 18, 1999

The challenge every country faces is how to become a learning society and to ensure that its citizens are equipped with the knowledge, skills and qualifications they will need in the next century. Economies and societies are increasingly knowledge-based. Education and skills are indispensable to achieving economic success, civic responsibility and social cohesion.

The next century will be defined by flexibility and change; more than ever there will be a demand for mobility. Today, a passport and a ticket allow people to travel anywhere in the world. In the future, the passport to mobility will be education and lifelong learning. This passport to mobility must be offered to everyone.

Part 1: Basic Principles

Meeting our social and economic goals will require a renewed commitment to investment in lifelong learning.

- by Governments, investing to enhance education and training at all levels;

- by the private sector, training existing and future employees;

- by individuals, developing their own abilities and careers.

The rewards for investing in people have never been greater and the need for it has never been more pressing. It is the key to employment, economic growth and the reduction of social and regional inequality. As we move into the next century, access to knowledge will be one of the most significant determinants of income and the quality of life. Globalization means that developed and developing countries alike stand to gain from higher standards of skills and knowledge across the world.

A commitment to greater investment in people must be underpinned by three principles:

- first, that everyone should have access to learning and training, not just those who are intellectually gifted or economically privileged, and basic education should be free of charge. Special attention should be given to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of combating illiteracy;

- second, that everyone should be encouraged and enabled to continue learning throughout their lives, not just in the years of compulsory schooling;

- third, that developing countries should be helped to establish comprehensive, modern and efficient education systems.

Part 2: Essential Elements

The essential elements of a strategy for lifelong learning and training are:

- high-quality early years education;

- primary education that enables all children to achieve good competence in reading, writing, arithmetic, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and to develop basic social skills;

- secondary education that develops the aptitudes and abilities of all students, not only those bound for higher education and professional careers, provided by schools aware of the needs of labor markets;

- vocational training that imparts skills attuned to the needs of the labor market and the most up-to-date technology and which opens up pathways to higher qualifications;

- higher education that offers opportunities for everyone capable of profiting from degree-level work, with financial support as necessary to ensure access for everyone who can benefit;

- adult skill acquisition that enjoys appropriate public or employer support, accommodates family needs and affords ready opportunities for re-skilling throughout life. This should include high-quality work-based learning systems and equipping people with the skills needed for self-generated learning.

At all stages of learning emphasis should be given to the importance of creativity, entrepreneurship and education for democratic citizenship, including respect for the political, civil and human rights of all people, the value of tolerance and pluralism, and an understanding and respect for the diversity of different communities, views and traditions.

Part 3: Building Blocks

Education systems have strong national characteristics and they have a very important role in fostering cultural diversity. But there are important areas where countries share common priorities and approaches or have identified particularly effective strategies for modernizing their education and training systems to raise standards at all levels. The following are key building blocks:

- Teachers are the most vital resource in promoting modernization and higher standards; their recruitment, training, deployment and appropriate incentives are critical to any successful education system;

- the mutually supportive roles of public and private finance and the need to raise the overall level of investment in education and training;

- modern and effective ICT networks to support traditional methods of teaching and learning and to increase the quantity and range of education and training, for example, through distance learning;

- the continued development and improvement of internationally recognized tests to benchmark student achievement;

- the recognition of professional qualifications and work experience;

- the promotion of the study of foreign languages to increase the understanding of different cultures and enhance mobility in a globalized world;

- increased attention to the establishment of clear targets in terms of higher standards and levels of achievement;

- the need to develop a culture of entrepreneurship in education, not least in developing the closest R&D links between universities and companies.

Source: Released at the Köln Summit 1999