Raising participation—or furthering exclusion? Regional lifelong learning strategies under scrutiny
The article brings into question the issue of regional network strategies aiming at implementing structures of lifelong learning in the local context, the so-called learning communities. Facing a broad diversity in their implementation all over Europe, one can observe on the other hand much less effort to discuss conceptual frameworks that deal explicitly with this subject as a whole. Yet it seems essential to categorise these colourful patterns of practice and to identify key issues—notably with regards to the aspect of lifelong learning—to develop the discourse further and to render it adaptive to international debate. For this purpose the paper draws attention to three instrumental case studies of learning communities (a Norwegian one, an English one and a German one) that were conducted within an exploratory research strategy. Designed as a between-method triangulation, the case studies represent a mixed qualitative-quantitative approach by means of an anonymous questionnaire and half-standardised interviews. The members of the network and its key stakeholders from the meta-level were investigated just as the local framework itself. Hence, the study intends not only to demonstrate exemplarily the European variety of learning communities, their origins and leading structures, but also to propose a further structuring of the topic by introducing a typology of learning communities. This eventually opens up controversial issues about lifelong learning strategies in general; for example the question, if these strategies will possibly rather widen already existing structures of inequality and exclusion than raising participation in lifelong learning.
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