Interview with Italian Minister for Education, Patrizio Bianchi

The importance of lifelong learning

The following interview with the Italian Minister for Education, Patrizio Bianchi, is based on the welcome address delivered by Minister Bianchi at the ETF international conference ‘Building lifelong learning systems: skills for green and inclusive societies in the digital era’, which took place from 21 to 25 June 2021 and was jointly organised with UNESCO and in collaboration with EBRD, the ILO and UNICEF. 

Italy assumed the G20 2021 Presidency on the 1 December 2020. The G20 is an international forum, made up of 19 countries and the European Union, representing the world’s major developed and emerging economies. Together, the G20 members represent 85 % of global GDP, 75% of international trade and two-thirds of the world’s population.

Q. Minister Bianchi, how important is education in this period when we are still dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic?

R. A meeting has just taken place in Catania, where the G20 countries met to discuss the role of education in the world with all agreeing that it is crucial to put education at the centre of relaunching the economy after the pandemic and to invest in the capacities and the capabilities of our people. It is not possible to relaunch the economy otherwise.

A socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economy needs investment in education systems. It is no longer just an issue for our children. Now we know that our entire lives must be devoted to learning and that continuous support is needed to ensure that people are able to learn and to continuously transform, and with this ensure societal transformation.

Q. What are governments doing to support education and learning?

R. The European Union, as a global actor, is investing resources, both human and financial, to support lifelong learning and to avoid, at the other extreme, the NEETs phenomenon, whereby people find themselves in a situation not being in employment, education or training.

We need solutions that are responsive to emerging needs, coupling technologies with the development of skills to drive forward the economy. We need not only to exit from the health pandemic, but also the pandemic of stagnation whereby people do not update, or are without the possibility to update their skills. We have to invest more in a lifelong system of education that not only helps them prepare for the inevitability of not having just one job in their lives, for instance, but equips them with ability to manage that and to flourish.

Q. How is lifelong learning being supported in countries that are not members of the EU or the G20?

R. The European Union has ambitious goals for lifelong learning that are enriched by the different national education and training systems of each of its member states. The G20 has 20 of the world’s richest countries in its forum all of which represent different pathways towards the same goal of creating a lifelong learning system and to improve life circumstances for many.

The European Union is also a reference for educations systems around the world and this came out very strongly at the G20 Education Ministers meeting in Catania on 22 June. Similarly, we have learnt at the ETF international conference the support being given to governments and other stakeholders within the EU’s external relations, in partnership with other international institutions so that they may build the key components of lifelong learning systems capitalizing on the urgency created by the green and digital transitions and the skills required.

Q. Are you optimistic?

R. We face historic challenges, yet I am convinced that this century is a century for people, a century of knowledge and learning. And for this reason, I think that it is extremely important, that all governments, all institutions, all representatives are engaged together in this extraordinary challenge to improve the lives of our people, our children. Thank you so much.

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