Lifelong learning: policy recommendations for the future

Published on
April 22, 2021

The Netherlands is a knowledge economy with a tradition of educating professionals in low- and middle-income countries. Issues relating to healthy food and living conditions assume ever-greater importance worldwide. New insights and approaches in tackling these issues have a rapid turn-over.

As a result, the solution to capacity development for professionals in low- and middle-income countries is not aone-off course in the Netherlands today, but lifelong learning. Experts from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) are working hard on opportunities to shape these pathways – now and in the future.

Online and ‘blended’ learning

The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the existing trend towards online and blended learning: learning pathways that take place in both face-to-face settings and online, and which combine individual and group learning, as well as synchronous and asynchronous learning. While online learning offers advantages, such as reaching large numbers of professionals and allowing them to quickly put what they have learned into practice, there are also limitations to the online interaction between professionals and trainers. The lessons we have learned from our experiences during the coronavirus pandemic can be applied in smart blended forms of online and offline learning.

Funding of modules

Experts at WUR see huge opportunities for online and blended learning as part of lifelong learning. However, responding to these opportunities calls for new forms of funding to support capacity development. As well as the current funding of scholarship programmes, tailor-made courses and institutional partnerships, funding is needed to develop high quality modules that can be used in online and blended learning pathways. These could include (interactive) videos, case studies, interactive scenarios, serious gaming, and in-person or virtual working visits to a company. These are building blocks that can be used in multiple learning pathways, depending on the demand.

Smart policy for the future

Lifelong learning therefore calls for investment in a more flexible capacitydevelopment model. In addition to new funding to develop modules, the ongoing funding of individual scholarships remains needed to enable participants from low- and middle-income countries to benefit from Dutch knowledge and insights. Professionals place a high value on on-the-job coaching and mentoring, which boosts the practical application and impact of what they have learned. Funding for capacitydevelopment within partnerships, such as learning communities or sector platforms, is also important.

This focus on lifelong learning through blended learning pathways means that public funds can be put to different applications and greater impact can be achieved with the same resources – not only because more people are being reached, but also because capacitydevelopment is of higher quality and more aligned with practice. This will make the Dutch government's support for capacitydevelopment in low- and middle-income countries more future-proof, thereby making a major contribution to transforming the food sectors and food systems and to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).