A catalyst for personal advancement, community development, social change and economic growth

Context and rationale: culture, education and lifelong learning

The Access to Culture Platform is a channel for cultural stakeholders to provide concrete input and practice-based policy recommendations to European, national, regional and local policy-makers. It has the mandate to bring in the voice of civil society to provide recommendations for polices that can foster access of all to the cultural life in its different dimensions. As a new effective instrument for consultation at European level, the Platform facilitates the open dialogue on crucial issues and provides guidelines and recommendations that aim at opening the way to new policy development at all levels. The Platform currently has 48 representatives from 36 different cultural organizations in Europe, covering diverse areas from performing arts, heritage, architecture, culture centres, schools, minority languages and more.

The Working Group on Education and Learning (WGEL) is one of the three main threads of the Access to Culture Platform. It explores the benefits of the interaction and the synergy between education, learning and culture and the role that cultural participation plays in different educational settings. The Working Group explored the importance of cultural experiences not only within the formal educational system, but in the overall developing of social and civic competences and in the elaboration of lifelong learning concepts. From a practical perspective, lifelong learning concept covers the ongoing educational experiences over the entire life of individuals, from their early childhood on to their older senior years, that utilize non-credit and out-of-classroom courses, educational initiatives, diverse training settings, community services and different forms of volunteerism to fully engage the human brain, heighten physical activity, and maintain healthy social relationships in a society. Learning is seen an ongoing activity to acquire new knowledge or develop skills at the workplaces and other community settings, and is related to constant interactions with others.

Therefore lifelong learning programmes enhance social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development and in this way contribute to the competitiveness and employability. Cultural participation and activities have a strong role to play in this process from variety of perspectives. One of the difficulties is that when the cultural sector creates learning activities with no relation to formal education, it is often approached as “leisure”, or “craftsmanship”, and sometimes not taken seriously by decision-makers and funders. Therefore, a deeper understanding of the impact of cultural engagement in education and lifelong learning is required, as well as wider dissemination of extraordinary practices and cases that lead to positive outcomes.

This document summarizes the key papers produced by the WGEL as a result of its collective work in the last 3 years.

Key statements

[       The triangle “culture-education-learning” has a transformative long-term effects and impact at individuals, organizations, communities and the society as a whole.

 [       The creative potential of people in a society may be nursed, stimulated and cultivated. Culture and arts have a key role to play in this process, especially in relation to connections between creativity and education, both formal and non-formal one.

 [       Cultural sector has a strong pedagogical impact: it is capable to produce original and effective pedagogical programmes that are based on the engagement with culture.

 [       Cultural sector contributes effectively to the lifelong learning: it creates learning activities that reach people in a true and real lifelong and life wide meaning.

 [       Cultural sector offers learning of several key competences: cultural awareness is just the tip of the competence iceberg.

Shared practices: “extraordinary meetings between education and culture”

Learning through cultural engagement has an enormous potential and is still underexplored. WGEL collected 60 examples and best practices of innovative connections between education and culture that have a strong impact on diverse target groups and give evidences for long-lasting effects: personal, social and economic. These “extraordinary meetings between education and culture” introduce unique methods and mechanisms that can be developed further in other settings and countries. The cases and examples were collected through a process whereby all participating organisations asked their members to look for and report on activities which they themselves saw as interesting examples of learning through cultural engagement beyond the usual. The final material represents diverse sectors, such as: heritage and museums (23 examples), music (10), theatre (7), adult education (13), building conservation and architecture (5), library sector (1) and modern art (1). The focus on children and young people is evident in the collected examples. Other target groups are: adults, seniors, and families. Below are highlights of several cases where evidences of innovation, creativity, and professionalism bring long-lasting effects. They give a good flavor on why and how cultural participation could be related to education and lifelong learning.

Here are some of the selected projects. Have a look, they really deserve attention and wider dissemination:

Key conclusions and policy recommendations

As a result of the collaborative work with members, chain of open discussions, the undertaken research process, and analysis of examples of extraordinary connections between cultural participation, education and lifelong learning, the WGEL puts forward the following ten key conclusions and policy recommendations:

1. There is a need to strengthen the relations between cultural organizations and institutions dealing with both formal and non-formal education. Cross-connections between culture and education open new learning methods, adapted to different target groups, among them children, young people, adults and seniors. Cultural sector has proven to answer effectively to the needs of different learning styles of peoples and groups, especially related to using creativity and innovation and participation as part of the learning process.

2.    Engaging children and young people in innovative and interactive creative processes aspart of their formal and non-formal education is a very important way to develop future audiences and supporters of arts and culture. This process will increase cultural participation in a strategic framework.

3.    Nurturing the democratic attitude of young people through multicultural programmes that explore new models of an open dialogue is an important background for building up democratic societies. The “no-winners and losers” concept which stays at the bottom of the programs connecting cultural engagement with education certainly helps for developing the sense of equality and collectiveness.

4.    Creating open spaces for personal expression of vulnerable groups of the population where participants feel active and important for the programmes improves self-confidence, dignity, the overall quality of life of people, especially the one facing physical, emotional or mental health problems. Cultural engagement and the use of artistic methods in educational programmes for vulnerable groups of the population are proven to be effective and deserve further attention, as well as support.

5.    Cross-artistic initiatives with innovative elements and high responsiveness to changes need a special focus. Developing adaptability of both individuals and organizations in the constantly changing world is an important tool for survival and strategic improvement.

6.    The power of connecting cultural participation with education and learning should be incorporated into programmes for adaptation of migrants. Intercultural way of art making is an effective path to mutual influence and collaboration between people from different ethnic, religious and cultural background.

7.    Connections between culture, education and learning widen participants’ access to both cultural and educational products and services. This process leads to increased participation in both cultural and educational sector which brings arts and education nearer to everyday life. It also brings economic benefits to cultural organizations.

8.    Programmes connecting cultural participation with education and learning are proven to improve individual creativity and potential for innovation. If combined with relevant entrepreneurial training, such programmes could be a powerful catalyst for improving entrepreneurial capacity in a society and could contribute to further economic growth.

9.    Cultural professions and possibilities for undertake a career in the cultural sector should be introduced to children and youth from the very early ages. In a long-term this process results in improving the employment in the cultural sector and brings economic benefits.

 10.  Creative partnership and collaboration between government, non-profit and business sectors on projects where the triangle between culture, education and lifelong learning is present should be encouraged and supported. Raising awareness in social issues among stakeholders is an important prerequisite for the success of programmes connecting culture with education and lifelong learning.

Learning through cultural engagement at all levels and for diverse target groups seems to be a powerful way for solving social and economic issues in the society. Stakeholders, cultural organizations, educational institutions, citizens and policy-makers need to continue seeking effective and innovative ways for further developing the triangle “culture-education-lifelong learning”. This need to be done as part of a participative and inclusive strategy-making and policy-making process at all levels. The true potential of the cultural sector in educational and lifelong learning programmes has been overlooked and needs special attention in the future as the positive impact at all levels is indisputable.

Read the full document on the website of Access to Culture Platform:



Image credit: Images are selected from the websites of some of the projects: Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in Chichester, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Barbican and Open Air Museum in Aarhus, Denmark.


The paper is commissioned by the Working Group on Education and Learning Access to Culture Platform

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