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Ageing, Education and Human Capital


Thu 27. 8.  11:00 - 12:30
room FA 203

Learning in Higher Age - Social and Educational Aspects


Gerdenitsch, Claudia
University of Graz, Austria

Europe is concerned with age-related demographic shifts and effects of increased expectation of life: more and more people reach increasingly great age. Thus, it is common to speak of Europe as an ‘ageing society’. Yet, this metaphoric figure is not the only one meant to describe Europe’s societies. Regarding to self-description and concerning political strategies Europe, too, has to be considered as a ‘knowledge society’, with ‘lifelong learning’ as one of the key-concepts. The combination of both figures in discourse – ageing society and knowledge society – introduces a challenging perspective to research not as yet fully taken into account in research and practice, especially in education. Within the concept of knowledge society several hopes are put on _knowledge and learning_ (e.g. concerning the reduction of social differences and inequalities ascribed to industrial production). But several studies show that these hopes did not come true: traditional differences and inequalities increased and social tensions did not diminish either. Efforts in promoting Lifelong Learning/Education either have not yet developed their full power or have come to their limits for several reasons. From an educational point of view, the paper discusses the following topics: - 'Social Participation' and 'Inclusion' typically apply to social education or special education. However, these concepts offer promising approaches for educational gerontology/gergogy. - Most of the research dedicated to lifelong _learning_, in fact, focusses on lifelong _education_ in terms of courses and institutionally shaped provisions. At the same time, it is well known that learning in higher age increasingly takes place in _informal settings_, and a huge group of learners in higher age does not participate in formal courses. Thus, research itself neither is inclusive nor representative with regard to learning activities on the whole. This has (problematic) effects on the science-based construction of age-related stereotypes. Furthermore, scopes of educational support for learning in higher age remain unused. - Many theorists of ageing claim that a complete understanding of human life required a full understanding of ageing. My claim is that this also applies to education: research into learning in higher age offers new insights into learning as a human activity over the lifespan. Thus, education in theory and practice will benefit from ageing studies in education, in that ageing may reveal yet unseen aspects of learning in younger ages. It will allow a better understanding of what it means to grow old in an ageing knowledge society. The paper deals with theoretical and conceptional aspects of ageing and fits into the thematic area of _Ageing and the Lifecourse_.