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Learning communities, learning cities and learning regions


In recent years, parallel to the wide acceptance of the concept of lifelong learning as a guiding principle for education development and reform, some more pragmatic and operational approaches have been adopted to implement lifelong learning and an example of these approaches is the building of a ‘learning community’, ‘learning city’ or ‘learning region’. Although the concept of learning cities has been generated in developed countries, facilitated by the OECD since the early 1980s and the European Commission since 1990s, it is now rapidly spreading to the developing countries. In fact, in more and more countries, there are local-level authorities which claim to be learning cities/regions/communities, and the building of learning cities/regions/communities has become a considerable world-wide phenomenon.

Studies have shown that the creation of learning cities has become an effective instrument to promote lifelong learning in the international community despite the various challenges. The goal of establishing lifelong learning systems or building learning societies cannot be achieved only by the efforts of national governments, and cities/regions/communities have a crucial role to play. If a Member State aspires to build a learning society or develop a lifelong learning system, they may use the brand of ‘learning cities’, ‘learning regions’ or ‘learning communities’ to mobilise or encourage their local authorities. In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lived in towns and cities. As the urban population of the developing countries, in particular in Africa and Asia, will increase significantly in the years to come, it is time now for the international community to anticipate the learning needs of citizens in the fast growing urban communities.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. 2012. Global Learning Cities Network: Terms of Reference. Hamburg: UIL.

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