Summary of Desk Research

In the Netherlands there are a lot of ‘lifelong learners’. In most cases they are doing short, tailor-made, private courses and training programmes. This is non-formal learning, always to be combined with work-experience (important in our country). The strategy of the government is mostly focussed on 1. formal education and 2. helping people getting a formal degree, using a procedure for the validation of that non-formal and informal learning.

One of the well-known LLL-experts, Alexander Rinnooy Kan, said: “The statistics don’t lie. The Dutch efforts are staying far behind looking at the official ambition, supported by the Parlia­ment, to be a ‘top five economy’. Dutch employees, who at a certain moment undergo a form of schooling as adult learners, have for many years made up about 16 percent of learners. That’s half of what is happening in a serious knowledge economy as can be seen in the Scandinavian countries. Added to this can be the misunderstanding that people older than 40 are not able to learn, and are not willing to. In part-time education, however, there are enough opportunities for improvement. During the course of the last ten years the number of students decreased by 50% – and the Netherlands can be blamed for this.”

The Dutch report about the state of play gives information about:
•    What LLL is  in the Netherlands;
•    The recent plans of the ministry of education to support adult learning, in a formal setting;
•    An overview of all key  players in LLL, with background information;
•    The NLQF and the role of the National Coordination Point;
•    Flexibility in shaping learning pathways, using level 5 qualifications;
•    The discussion about have a Dutch Platform for LLL, gathering all associations involved in formal, non-formal and informal learning;
•    Input for the LLL-Forum, the 28th of May.

Some key points of the state of the art regarding LLL-policies

  • The government is starting pilots and experiments for having vouchers for adult learners (in certain sectors) and for using ‘learning outcomes’, to have more possibilities to arrange a flexible learning pathway. This can give a boost to more LLL, but… still with the focus on getting a formal degree.
  • There has been taken the initiative for a new law for the use of the NLQF. This means that all recognised diplomas have to mention the level of this framework from 2016 on. This will make ‘the public’ aware of the relevancy of such qualifications, hoping that more private providers will link their programmes to the NLQF.

Summary of practical results

Here a short list of the most important practical results of the research that has been done:

  • At the moment LLL is in most cases an issue in non-formal learning, mostly offered by private institutions. There is not yet a real ‘level playing field’ for public financed institutions.
  • The introduction of the NLQF (based on the EQF) has not given a boost to having non-formal qualifications linked to this framework, which means that there is little interest from employers in recognised qualifications based on the NLQF-descriptors.
  • There is a certain willingness to be seen at the associations for LLL (formal, non-formal, informal) for a certain cooperation. The attitude of the government in respecting such a platform will be crucial in the founding of it. At the moment the involved ministries have to be convinced of certain advantages of using this LLL-platform, to join forces in a broad setting.
  • The introduction of qualifications at level 5 is really important for having a better permeability between VET and HE, and for the founding of so-called Regional Associate Colleges.
  • Employers’ organisations are willing to support LLL-activities, but due to the economic situation there are not sufficient budgets, national and regional. We have to look for a new, dynamic and creative system.

Most important outcomes of our Forum

At the end of the Dutch Forum the experts mentioned the following most relevant recommendations:

  • The importance of the individual is the central issues in the policies of the parties and organiz­ations.
  • LLL should focus on a long-term employability of the individual.
  • The importance of an employee is embedded in the way the business is trying to be a learning organization, where the person at some point belongs to.

Our ‘prominent fact’

The most prominent fact that needs a place in this profile is the implementation of the Short Cycle Higher Education (SCHE) in the Netherlands, named: hbo-Associate (Ad). After a period with pilots the status of the Ad is a formal one from 2013 on.

A critical success factor was the cooperation between Leido (as a network organisation), the employers’ organisations and the ministry of education, with the focus on having a full qualification to make learning more flexible, getting a degree in higher (professional) education. It is also important to have the Ad linked to the NLQF, at level 5, with a clear position in the Dutch educational system.

The commitment of the member states, involved in the European Higher Education Area, for having SCHE in a formal way accepted, will give another ‘boost’ to the use of the Ad for lifelong learning.

Some main axis of progress for the next period (until 2020) to foster the convergence within Europe

Here three main axis for the next period:

  • The need for more national platforms for LLL, as a ‘partner’ of the government. This will bring the discussion at the European level in a next phase.
  • The role of all kinds of qualifications at level 5, with a ‘continuum’ from business training till SCHE (and in between HVET) has to be made clear The need for more higher skilled people is asking for this transparency.
  • There has to be a broad discussion about the way LLL has been accepted in the member states as an issue under ‘the umbrella’ of the national decision makers. The government can take the lead for this, not as a monopoly but to have a structure with shared responsibilities. This approach will also about investing money, energy, manpower, time and creative ideas.

Relevant links, websites, etc. to a national strategy:

Partnership Lifelong Learning NL
Dutch Qualification Framework (NLQF)
Learn for Life (Dutch Platform for International Adult Learning)
Nederlandse Raad voor Training en Opleiding (NRTO)
Kabinet grijpt in bij Leven Lang Leren
Leven lang leren
‘Het hoger onderwijs moet studenten voorbereiden op een leven lang leren’
Leven lang leren is een holle frase (kamerbrief LLL) (experimenten flexibel hoger onderwijs) (non-formal qualifications at level 5)

View and Download Dutch National State of Play Report