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Lifelong learning: An organising principle for reform

Lifelong learning (LLL) is not a new concept. However, as a guiding principle for integrating educational efforts, it is a much more recent development. In Australia, initial interest in a lifelong learning policy agenda quickly receded and little development occurred through the 2000s. In 2018, Adult Learning Australia (ALA) promoted a Year of Lifelong Learning (YOLL) and renewed calls for a national approach to coordinating the breadth of Australia’s educational efforts in the formal, non-formal and informal sectors to help equip individuals and communities to respond to the pressing challenges of the 21st century., This paper canvasses the rise of interest in lifelong learning internationally as a policy initiative, an umbrella under which other learning policies can be accommodated; examines how interest ebbed in recent years; before considering why and how it should be reconceptualised in Australia. It looks at the experience of other similar countries, noting how some governments withdrew support for lifelong learning, resulting in a decline in adult participation, while in others the process of introducing policy change has been maintained and continues even under the strains imposed by the global financial crisis. What are the arguments for developing an integrated national lifelong learning policy in Australia? Is this still a policy initiative worth pursuing? Who benefits from expanding educational opportunities and what are the costs of missing out? Is Australia’s existing educational framework fit for the purpose of addressing today’s and future challenges?