In this post I would like to compare the lifelong learning phenomenon and its influence on the life of the people living in two very different countries: Italy and Poland. The reason why I am putting these two members of the european community together is because I have studied and lived in both those countries, which hopefully will allow me to provide an objective and thorough portrait of what I believe the situation to be after having studied and conducted research on the Lifelong Learning process and the statistics in both these countries.
I would just like to stress that both Italy and Poland are going through a very hard time at the moment. Surprisingly, the statistics in Poland are much more optimistic that what I perceive the actual situation to be. The GDP forecast for the year 2015 is expected to be 3,3% and Poland is expected to be one of the worlds fastest growing economies this year, whereas Italy’s GDP for this year is expected to be 0,3%. The unemployment rate in Poland in March 2015 was 11,4%, in Italy in April the unemployment rate was 12,4%.
With this data we can easily deduce that the situation in Poland and Italy is far from perfect and the EU is trying its best to boost the economy and provide people with better opportunities in both those countries. Education, vocational learning and more broadly lifelong learning play a vital role in both the economic and social context. The EU has been constantly inventing new ways in order to facilitate cross-cultural understanding, personal development and the achievement of EU’s full economic potential.
In both countries the following programs have been put to life, and most importantly have been financed by the EU:
- Bologna and Copenhagen processes
- The EES
- The ET2020
In my opinion, both countries are hugely profiting from their membership in the EU and there are several programs that the citizens can take part in for free in order to improve their professional and extracurricular skills. Lifelong learning is becoming very popular in Poland and statistics show that year after year the Polish population decides to ‘’invest in itself’’ and take advantage of the wide range of the possibilities that are given. From my experience the social pressure concerning higher education in Poland is much higher. I think it has a lot to do with Poland being a post-communist country and therefore wants to quickly catch up with the western countries. The Eurostat Statistics shows that the graduates in tertiary education in 2011 in Poland (648,000 graduates) was almost double in comparison with Italy (388,800 graduates).
In Poland almost anyone can get a higher education. There has been a boom of private Universities that offer a degree for anyone who is willing to pay. The difference between Poland and Italy, where such school can also be found, is that in Poland such Universities do not cost much and therefore a large number of people can afford to study there. Of course, this does not help to become more attractive on the job market, as all employers are conscious of the deceving credentials of many potential employees. I believe it is more of a social phenomenon, where people feel that having a degree from a private university is better than having none at all. I think people in Poland still believe that a degree and any kind of extra self-development can help them improve their current life/employment situation. In Italy I have noticed a slightly different process of approaching lifelong learning .
The Italians are less keen on taking part in regionally courses organized by the government or the region and aiming at becoming more , they seem to believe in the practical and individual capacities of individuals more than in a degree. Owning a degree does not make the Italians any more serene about their job opportunities than it makes the Poles. From my observations I know that an Italian will proudly admit to have achieved professional success without any educational background, whereas in Poland not having a higher education and not investing in ones self-development is often a shame and people are socially pressured into taking extra courses they do not really want to commit to.
I personally consider this to be it is a superficial investment of the EU’s sources when it comes to the individuals. Moreover, in many cases it is not only a waist of the EU’s financial sources, but also a distraction that shifts our attention away from the need of changing the whole economic system, rather than investing in people with poor perspectives and giving them meaningless credentials.