The COMORELP Benchmarking approach: comparing Regional Lifelong Learning Policies

25th July 2022

One challenging element of the COMORELP project is the development and testing of an online benchmarking tool allowing regional teams -gathered by the Regional Lifelong Learning Labs– to consider different policy indicators, to discuss their current achievements and to define priorities for progress. These activities are meaningful even when conducted locally in one region, because they bring (back) the issue of Lifelong Learning (LLL) in the regional policy agenda, they guarantee a participatory monitoring practice and offer quantitative and qualitative indicators to ground any appreciation.

The following areas have been identified:

  1. The placing of lifelong learning in a regional development strategy
  2. Promoting and implementing democratic governance within the regional lifelong learning system
  3. Inter-institutional coordination and integration of lifelong learning policies
  4. Identifying learner needs and monitoring participation
  5. International comparisons, cooperation and learning
  6. Managing and sustaining partnerships
  7. Information and guidance
  8. Developing learning motivation and skills or creating a culture of lifelong learning
  9. Professionalisation of educators and lifelong learning staff
  10. Promoting demand
  11. Reducing the digital divide in accessing lifelong learning
  12. Supporting lifelong learning
  13. Valuing learning
  14. Capacity to evaluate results, progresses and impact of regional lifelong learning policies

The relevance of each area will be discussed during the regional Labs, therefore, they are not considered final at this stage.

The main challenge of the benchmarking tool that is being developed by the project partners is to design it and to test it at the trans-national level:

  1.  The first obstacle has been to achieve consensus on definitions of the relevant areas and indicators among all partners representing regions as different as Auvergne-Rhone Alpes, Emilia-Romagna, Wales, Istanbul and Malopolska. The notion of benchmarking implies structured comparison, conducted on a periodic basis, among the five partner regions. The concept of Lifelong Learning has a huge inspirational value to encourage system views on education and training provision putting learners “at the centre” and to suggest a high integration degree among policies that are frequently attributed to different policy making departments. Every region is organised in different ways, the division of competences and the current policy priorities are not the same, different languages use different terms and concepts.
  2. The second obstacle is to create the participatory infrastructure -the Regional Lifelong Learning Labs- in such a way that might allow a coherent use of the benchmarking tool in the different Regions and thus a meaningful comparison of the collective replies given to the same indicators: if one Regional Lab adopts a self-celebrating approach and another a critical one to appreciate regional policies what is compared on qualitative indicators is not a consolidated regional vision, but subjective views. Reaching a certain level of coherence is necessary not only for the validity of the comparisons, but also to identify opportunities for further cooperation, peer learning and peer reviewing. When this article is drafted, Regional Lifelong Learning Labs are in their early days or in their constitution phase, while the coherence of approach is sought through the compilation of Regional LLL Policy Reports, using the same monitoring areas that are used for the benchmarking tool, so that both activities can support each other and coherence is built in the process.
  3. The third challenge, that is still more foreseen than already experimented by the project, is the extension of the benchmarking exercise to other regions that are not represented in the project partnership. This is foreseen to happen in the third year of the project, substantially in 2023. Moving to this phase implies that all 5 partner regions have tested the benchmarking tool and have agreed on its value.

In view of these challenges, the project is quickly progressing towards a comprehensive piloting phase, the results of which will be presented at the next partner meeting in Istanbul in early November.

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