The schools of tomorrow should become "community learning centres" offering individualised and accredited programmes for learners of all ages, according to education ministers from member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Ministers representing the 25 OECD countries said in a statement after a meeting in Paris this week on life-long learning: "Schools are a major social asset and should be community learning centres offering a variety of programmes and learning methods to a diverse range of students and remain open for longer hours throughout the year."
The communique called for a major rethink of the way education is organised. Instead of rigid curricula, grading students by age, and an emphasis on rote learning - the norm in many OECD countries - "Lifelong learning would benefit from more supple frameworks which encourage self-directed learning and permit a more flexible response to the diverse aptitudes and backgrounds of students. "
It also called for schools and colleges to provide a greater diversity of skills and to develop cross-curricular activities.
With up to one in three adults in many OECD countries leaving school with only minimum standards of literacy and numeracy, new pathways for learning must be found to accommodate all ages of pupils.
* The prospect of a national citizens' service scheme was looking more likely last week as three large pilot projects were launched.
The schemes, to be run by the Community Service Volunteers agencies in Cardiff, Sunderland and the London Borough of Southwark, are intended to be a blueprint for a national programme in which all young people would spend time helping in schools, hospital wards, environmental projects and in the homes of the elderly or disabled.