Subject: " A brief approach on practices and research about life-long education in France. "

Bernard Fernandez, PhD.
University of Paris 8, CRISE


Education is generally acknowledged as a concept, which is easy and difficult to define. Everyone can have a clear definition of education according to his beliefs and values (for westerners it could be material comfort, individualism. self-esteem, high education, freedom, etc). But, nobody is enable to know what will be the major challenges of Education in ten years. The educational truths are afflicted by antinomies. The complexities arising out of those antinomies are not an easy task. Belonging to the outcome of social complexities, Education is deeply linked to social patterns, class-cultural issues and political aspects. The goal is probably to adjust individual development and social development within changes of the society. In fact, Education is a procedure and an unlimited process related to information skills, innovation, labour market, purpose-built, training, empowerment, technical tools, flexibility, economic and social development. In-between procedure and process arises a new challenge for Education based on life-long education. Let’s explore this new and " old " concept in France.
This paper consists of three parts. The first part is the background of the issue. It expounds that the concept of life-long education has undergone to legacy of the past somehow from Greek tradition, the Renaissance, Industrialisation and now " globalisation ". The second part is to describe life-Long education based on researches on Education Sciences in France. The third part is to understand the implicit assumption in this epistemological aspect related to life-long education.

 Life-Long Education through Historical facts.

Everybody agrees life-long education is a procedure and a process according to a different periods of time being (baby, kid, teenager, adult, old man) If we take into account this simple fact, we could say that it is not a fresh new concept arising into XXI century.  In Greek tradition through the myth of Ulysses we can emphasise easily that as a " human being " Ulysses learns from his own experiences which brought him up to others levels of consciousness. " Paideia ", in old Greek language meant to leave your “sweet home” and learn by yourself from travelling, then come back to tell and explain what you get from your experience. This practice was established by panegyric’s tours during sophist’s time. Two others concepts in Greek’s period focused on Life-Long education : the concepts of “mètis” and “maïeutic”. In France, for centuries up to now, those two educational concepts are still practised in companionship or guild of workers well known for their works on noble materials as stone, wood, iron and now cook.  Later one, French philosophers and writers as Rabelais, Montaignes, Diderot, Rousseau, Condorcet emphasised on their essays that education is not only to get a basic education but also a permanent challenge through one’s life. But, in that time, generally speaking, education (from “educare” in Latin) meant to take out child from their “wild instincts” and bring him up to social’s life.
 Understanding life-long education in France, we have to point out some politics’ actions on our educational system. After the French Revolution, Napoleon I instituted in 1808 a famous diploma in French educational system called Baccalauréat. This one still exists today. Though this diploma was based on high education level, in 1880, only one percent of one generation passed it, 2,7 % in 1936 and 62% in 1997  (78,8% passed it). Another drastic measure in our educational system was the Jules-Ferry ‘s laws (1881-1886) created a public primary school (6 to 12 years old) free, state education and compulsory for all. So, Education is the first National priority.  In 1959, Berthouin’s Reform put the compulsory school up to 16 years old. . From 1965 to 1975, we build 2354 colleges in France and  President Georges Pompidou said " one college every day".
Though since Condorcet and Rousseau life-Long education and popular education were well considered, but it was only in 1971 that a law on vocational and adult training were voted forcing enterprises to invest roughly one percent of the aggregate remuneration of employees on training people. From that date, life-long education appeared as a real challenge for the society. Politicians as Jacques Delors and Edgar Faure worked hardly on those aspects. In 1972, under UNESCO, Edgar Faure, Minister of Education, with experts, intellectuals and politicians wrote an international commission report called " Learning to be ". This report emphasised the risk of facing a world running by technology.  " Learning to be " is to give right gates-keeping for people to understand the world and becoming a real responsible actor. " Learning to be " is a postulate: "  Development must take into account a complete lighting up of one’s man’s life based on his own wide and rich capacities to express and involved himself in the society: individual, member of the family or community, citizen and producer, inventor of technology or producer of dreams. " In fact this report emphasise that education is not a mean but a final achievement for individual process through professional experiences and social interactive building processes.  On the same years, new universities were built giving new programs according to the needs and challenges of the society. University of Paris 8 opened its doors for workers and  self-taught men without any diploma. Books were published about life-long education. Besides, colleges built a bridge with enterprises for teenagers (15 years old) who wanted to learn a professional job instead of going to university or to be unemployed. In eighties, in many diplomas, students are compulsory to get training experiences in enterprises. Today, in colleges, universities and enterprises, life-long education can be compulsory or a right according to the law.

Practices and researches on Life long Education in France.

In 1967, the Ministry of Education established Education Sciences department in university. In that time students or adults (teachers, trainers, social workers, etc) could get a diploma (level of master degree). Now field’s researches on education are related to different fields and levels (master degree to PhD levels). Based on sociology, anthropology, linguistic, philosophy, of education, psychology, psycho-pedagogy, cognition, action-research, didactic…all aspects of education and training are analysed (educational Objectives of curriculum, methodology of curriculum, knowledge and skills, pedagogical objectives on adult training, pedagogy, evaluation, etc).
So, today, we have around 250 units, 1200 directors of research, universities, institutes (INRP, INETOP , EHESS, CNAM, CEREQ, AFAP), CNRS, Ministries (work and social affair, professional training, etc), few scientific magazines and important national laboratories. So, it’s impossible to analyse all the researches on these issues. But, as an epistemological issue, we can distinguish positivism and non-positivism paradigms. Since the well-known sociologist Emile Dhurkheim, Education and social life were considered as over determined social facts. Knowing those fundamentals facts of social life through institutions (family, villages, schools, enterprises) Education had to give intellectual and morals values to man to be well brought up. The concept of education was a mechanic abstract vision of human being with stages (baby, kid, adult, and old man). On this aspect, Education was a procedure.
For many years until now, traditional works on sociology influenced many researches on education and training. Those works are accurate to clarify and understand the hidden puzzle of the society. Interesting results were also done on skills teaching, curriculum and didactic. Besides those works, started in seventies, new concepts arose on education and training like self-training, self-taught, biography of people, etc.  The main postulate was to show that human being is not only a pure product of the society. On those fields, existentialism, humanist psychology, life’s stories, school of Chicago, school of Franckfurt, school of Vincennes, have explored the insight social ‘s practices through self’s practices. For the last fifteen years, life’s stories and action-research on Kurt lewin ‘s works are relevant. Those works show that life-long education is a good way to build a life’s project. Life-long education is not only a good way to adjust a new social skill and technical tools to face modern life. It’s also related to an insight individual development. The process of learning (self-taught, self-evaluation, self-training…) and building new knowledge set on self’s practices are sometimes far away from the academic standard- knowledge.

 Life long education, an unlimited process.

Works on Life-Long education is mainly related on human‘s experiences and social development. The paradigm of life-long education focused on many aspect of human’s life. For many years it was based on training new skills, new database for training purpose, new assessments adjusted to the working market. As the world is changing in every minute, life-long education is more related to formal, informal and non-formal educational training.  Now, the goal is, of course, based on " portfolio of skills " focused on one’s experience. It means that knowledge cannot be only an abstract concept or something you have to learn by heart and will never remove. For example, in France, the time of getting a high diploma, a high competitive examination do not mean any more that you will never be trained again through your professional’s life. The challenge of knowledge is to build an articulation between basics concept of knowledge, processing researches, working competencies and an ethic social’s life. Therefore, life-long education concerned everybody implying the idea of a long educational process during all the life. In  1996, under UNESCO and J. Delors, President of The European commission, many people worked on all aspects of education for the twenties century. It is based on four neguentropic  principles :
1 ­ " Learning to know " is to combine a large general cultural data with the opportunity to work deeply some aspects of your knowledge. Therefore is  " learning  how to learn ".
2- " Know how " or  " knowing how " (Gilbert Ryles’s concept) is to get working qualification, competencies, team work… to face any situations in life. Getting basics skill is also to develop the capacity of being a part-time tutor or trainer.
3 ­ " Learn to live together " is developing an accurate perception of living with others (globalisation deeply emphasised this fact with misunderstanding cross-cultural issues). Be together is to realise that conflict, peace and mutual understanding need a permanent effort stick to any human’s action.
4- " Learning social skill " is to understand you own desire and build a capacity of self-autonomy’s behaviour being a responsible actor. From those aspects, it is not neglected all potential levels that human being can apply to be happy : memory, rational thought, aesthetic, physical capacities, capacity of communication, etc.

Traditionally, life long education distinguished basic education from training education. Today  time of learning never ends. Life cannot be divided into unchanged level. According to individual et social development life long education implies a logical and spiritual continuum with rhythms, adaptations, experiences, new competencies, etc. From that point of you, life-long education can be seen as a resources and creativity for society.

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