ELearning and the Lisbon strategy: an analysis of policy streams and policy-making
MacKeogh, Kay (2008) ELearning and the Lisbon strategy: an analysis of policy streams and policy-making. In: International Conference on European Union Policies in the Making, 18-19 April 2008, Krakow, Poland.
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Under the Lisbon strategy, education and training form an essential element of the social pillar which aims to modernise the European social model through investment in human resources and combating social exclusion. Up to 2004, elearning was promoted as a key element in achieving the strategy especially through the Elearning Action Plan (2004-2006). This paper will analyse the process through which elearning emerged as a policy measure in implementing the Lisbon strategy. Using Kingdon’s policy streams metaphor (Kingdon, 1995), this paper will outline the policy and problem streams which coalesced in the late 1980s, opening a ‘policy window’, and which pushed distance learning onto the EU political agenda in the early 1990s. These included the accretion of ‘soft law’ around the area of vocational education and training since the Treaty of Rome in 1957; the challenges offered by the emerging new information technologies, declining industries and changing demands for skills; the adoption of distance learning systems at national level to redress disadvantage, and to provide flexible, high-quality and cost-effective access to higher education to adults who were unable to attend on-campus; and the role of the Commission, policy entrepreneurs and networks in promoting distance education as a solution to the major social and economic problems facing Europe. The Treaty of Maastricht committed the EU to supporting education and training in the community, and in particular, to ‘encouraging the development of distance education’ (Art 126 changed to Art 149 in Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties). A series of implementation programmes in the 1990s, including Socrates, Tempus and Phare, funded distance learning initiatives in the EU and accession countries. With the development of the Internet and web technologies, elearning came to replace distance education in the EU discourse. The paper will conclude with some observations on the current role of elearning policy within the Lisbon strategy.
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