Learning takes place across all ages and in diverse settings, whether in formal education and training institutions, at work or at home. Lifelong learning involves a broad set of knowledge, skills, competences and attitudes through which a learner’s agency is both recognized and fostered. In the age of digital technology and AI, the learning ecosystem is interconnected, employing both online and offline resources to enable learning to take place anywhere, anytime, via individualized pathways.  

UIL’s work focuses on the three main pillars of emerging lifelong learning ecosystems
Technology, digitization and AI

Our projects

UNESCO Global Network of Learning cities
Global Alliance for Literacy
Citizenship education
Redefining the content of learning: Competences for the twenty-first century

In today’s rapidly changing world, learners must be prepared to cope with uncertainty and respond to global challenges. Beyond adaption, individuals need to develop transformative competences in innovation, responsibility and awareness.  

Woman laptop nature

The notion of ‘foundational skills’ has evolved to include cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills that endow people with the flexibility, adaptability and capability to understand the deep changes taking place in their environment – in particular, the transformation of the labour market, climate change, migration and digitalization. The competences that people now require are based less on fact-based knowledge and procedural skills than on creativity, teamwork and the ability to mobilize transversal skills in different contexts, at work and beyond.  

To develop these skills, we must embrace the notion of continuous learning. Lifelong learning is an integrated continuum of formal, non-formal and informal education, including experiential learning. Providers therefore have an obligation to advance interconnected learning pathways to ensure that learners’ experiences are recognized as part of an interdependent set of holistic competences. 

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning: 

  • promotes functional literacy and numeracy learning in Member States facing persistent challenges in youth and adult literacy; 

  • supports Member States to integrate digital competences, media literacy and global citizenship as core elements of the ‘new foundational skills’; 

  • reviews new models of learning that foster cognitive agility and consider the ‘whole person’; 

  • undertakes research in these areas, promotes content-sharing by reviewing initiatives conducted to facilitate learning content reuse and building repositories of reusable educational resources for lifelong learning, such as the Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons.  

Technology, digitization and Artificial Intelligence

Learning ecosystems are grounded in a diversity of learning content, places and sources, and rely on interconnectivity – across an entire lifetime. Today, the promise of ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning, as well as learning that is tailored to individual needs, is increasingly recognized as an important way of teaching and educating. 

woman india laptop village

Technology is changing the nature of human cognition. Digital technologies and AI are not only transforming formal and non-formal education, but they are also changing social relations, collective learning and participatory research. In other words, technology is transforming how people interact, develop and work.  

Technology-supported learning affects the design, delivery, assessment and governance of learning processes. Emerging technologies are radically changing the ways in which we train, educate, learn and develop, and they are similarly changing how learning professionals operate – building teams, seeking out shared materials and embracing a culture of content reuse.  

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning: 

  • provides expertise on the emergence of technology-enabled lifelong learning systems and the potential of technology to enhance quality, increase participation, improve assessment models and facilitate portability and recognition of skills at national and global levels;  

  • investigates how these trends modify governance and the role of the state;  

  • collects evidence on rising inequalities due to the digital divide between and within countries, enables knowledge sharing in this area, and identifies policy responses able to bridge this gap.

The role of lifelong learning educators

The emergence of lifelong learning ecosystems with increasingly technology-facilitated collaborative environments calls for a new type of educator, one who is not only a trainer but also a facilitator, mentor and coach within a larger, connected network and technology-rich environment.   

Female teaching online in front of a smartphone

Within a lifelong learning paradigm, teaching requires a genuine shift of mindset. Educators must give up conventional cognitive and teacher-centred approaches and adopt a holistic vision of learning and learner-centred practices. Their teaching models must abandon linear and time-based standards and apply personalized and non-linear methods. Educators, often trained to work as fully autonomous professionals working in isolation, are now expected to navigate interconnected learning systems, use technology, and work in a team with other learning specialists. Just like their students, educators must become lifelong learners.  

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning: 

  • documents new approaches to train, upskill and empower educators as learning professionals and helps them develop the new capabilities they need;  

  • reviews country experiences;  

  • contributes to the development of new instruments and standards to guide policies and the design of new systems for the development of learning professionals.