The term ‘adult learning’ is very often used synonymously with ‘adult education’. The European Commission speaks rather about ‘adult learning’ than ‘adult education’, but refers to the concept of ‘adult education’. According to the EU2020 benchmarks, 15% of adults aged 25-64 should be taking part in adult learning by 2020. ‘Adult learning’ can also refer to specific learning needs and methods of adults, based on the assumption that learning in adult life, i.e. information processing in the brain, works differently to learning at a younger age.
“Adult learning and education is a fertile ground, not only for the provision of skills, knowledge and competencies for sustainable development, but also to empower social transformation as a whole“.
The opening lines of EAEAs recent report on greening adult learning and education sets out a clear position: adult learning and education is a key policy tool to navigate a fair and equitable transition to a sustainable society. The report, however, offers a word of caution:
“Without taking this opportunity we lose the chance to build up a society of critical thinkers, collaborative doers and equipped citizens – paving the way into a shared sustainable future“.
A key hurdle to overcome being that most of the examples of “green” education are driven by and up-skilling and growth rhetoric – the intrinsic humanistic value of education often taking a back seat.
What is the problem with this? The report makes a valid point: the intrinsic value of education, and its transformative potential, is a fundamental component for realising a sustainable future. It is only through emancipatory education where the appearance of a natural order can be revealed as neither necessary nor inevitable – what was once deemed impossible suddenly seems attainable.
A sustainable society will not come to be through a top-down approach; people need to be afforded the capacity to envision an alternative world – adult learning and education offers one avenue for this to transpire.
EAEA’s report is an excellent guide to affirm and envision further what the future of adult learning can look like – and how it can support and compliment sustainability. Take a look at the report in full here.
The fourth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) was launched on 5 December in Brussels at a meeting of the Interest Group on Lifelong Learning. The event, hosted by the Permanent Representation of Lower Saxony to the EU, took place in the framework of the Lifelong Learning Week 2019.
Focus on adult learning to develop integrated, holistic solutions to global challenges
The need for better recognition as well as financing of the education sector was at the centre of the high-level panel debate. While there is a wide acknowledgement that adult education is pivotal for creating inclusive societies, tools and instruments put forward by countries in Europe and other parts of the world are often insufficient to ensure large participation in lifelong learning. Panellists, coming both from civil society organisations, governmental and intergovernmental institutions, agreed on the need to decisively step up participation in learning and education.
A special focus was brought on to adults. “Adult education and learning must be at the centre of efforts to achieve sustainable societies. All actors need to recognise its key role in the development of integrated, holistic solutions to the problems we face,” said David Atchoarena, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), during his opening speech.
Sustainability plays a key role in adult education
His Excellency Mahougnon Kakpo, Minister of Ministry of Secondary, Technical and Vocational Education and Training of Benin, underlined that all education needs to start with adults in order to achieve the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. “Equality is a global issue. Adult education provides a system for creating it,” he said.
“Sustainability plays a key role in the context of adult education. We need adult learning to implement the SDGs. As a society, our individual actors and consumers need to be aware of sustainability issues if we want to meet the goals by 2030,” Gina Ebner, Secretary General of the European Association for the Education of Adults, stressed in the discussion. “At the same time, we also need more sustainability of actual adult education policies.”
A new mindset to see education as a lifelong cycle
“We should change the culture and mindset that surrounds learning as an adult and see education as a lifelong cycle,” said Tatjana Babrauskiene, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee. She stressed that a holistic approach is needed not only for the way we teach but also for policy development and implementation.
There was a general agreement that “we must stop this culture that ‘the end of formal education means the end of our learning process,” as underlined by Manuela Geleng, Director for Skills in DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission.
A paradigm shift starts with increased investment in adult education
“There is a need for a paradigm shift in education policies that has to start with increased investment in adult education. A considerable number of countries is using less than 0.5 per cent of their education budgets for adult education. This is not enough to reach our target to get at least 15 per cent of adults into lifelong learning.” During the policy debate, it was anticipated that the European Commission will put adult learning high on the political agenda in the next years.
Everyone needs to have the right and the possibility to access learning
Adult participation in lifelong learning remains a key issue in almost all countries reviewed in the GRALE report. One-third of countries reported no change in participation rates, and some even reported a regression over the past years. Marginalised groups, including migrants, people with disabilities as well as older people, are particularly ill-represented in adult learning due to different barriers to participation.
Mr Atchoarena expressed concern that “most policy attention is on basic skills and employment education.” He called for more attention to issues related to citizenship, especially as democracy is in crisis in many parts of the world. “Participation in adult education plays a central role in being an active citizen and strengthening democratic systems. We must revisit the ways in which we use adult education policies to respond to emerging issues and problems, not only for the economy but for society as a whole,” he said.
The GRALE report urges policy-makers to work on and implement strategies for the participation in adult learning. “If things continue as they are — and without a significant change in political outlook there are good chances they will — the benefits of adult learning will continue to coalesce around the better-off and most advantaged in society, reinforcing and even intensifying existing inequalities, rather than helping the least advantaged individuals and communities.”
Bringing all stakeholders together and offering guidance is central
Lucie Susova, SOLIDAR Foundation, and Sylvia Liuti, FORMA.Azione, represented the voice of civil society in the panel. Ms Susova emphasised the importance of bringing all stakeholders together, including social services, legal services, as well as civil society, in order to support learners as they move between service providers. Ms Liuti said that “adults need to be empowered to ask for education support and provision without fear of stigma.” Participation of adults in lifelong learning is higher in countries and regions, where these support mechanisms exist.
H.E. Kakpo said: “Lifelong learning and adult education should be leading global development. In a world with rapid technological changes, learning helps our citizens to cope with these changes, and be full citizens.”
“We must not take democracy, values and participation for granted. And lifelong learning has a key role to play in keeping track as they develop, evolve and change,” concluded Brikena Xhomaqi, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform.
The European e-learning course on teaching and learning basic skills continues 17th September! You are welcome to join anytime.
The module “Tailor-made offers” (17.9.-15.10) looks at how to offer adults education and training based on mapping their individual needs. Through five sessions focusing on practices in Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, UK and more European countries, different aspects are explored:
– How can tailored-made offers better support adults with a low level of skills? – How can learning offers be a part of local community development? We also discuss how adult education policies could be developed to enable more tailored learning opportunities.
EAEA and its members strongly believe that the challenges faced by the adult education sector, and society at large, can only be solved in cooperation. The policy paper “Partnerships and Cooperations in Adult Learning” concludes the thematic work of EAEA on the topic in 2018.
Based on the collection of best practices, interviews and feedback from EAEA members, as well as desk research, the paper looks at the benefits of collaborative partnerships. It closes with recommendations for the policy level and adult education organisations.
Recommendations for building partnerships
Define clear objectives. Our members agree that a partnership cannot be an end in itself. It needs clear objectives.
Start building a network. Joining an existing umbrella organisation, such as EAEA, or an informal network, might be a good idea when starting to look for potential partners. Attending events and conferences or being active on relevant online platforms (for example EPALE) can also be helpful.
Take one small step at a time. Start building partnerships with similar organisations, those that share your vision. Build up partnerships starting with organisations that you already trust, and then branch out to new partners that could offer expertise needed.
An intermediary might help. EAEA members suggest taking the time to explain your background as an organisation, and sometimes even the role of the adult education sector as such. Using the help of somebody who knows both organisations might be useful in establishing the first connection.
Be clear on the idea, and on the benefits for each side. Coming with an idea for the cooperation, and how it can support each side, helps to set the right expectations.
Agree on the terms of the cooperation, and be careful what you sign. A few EAEA members expressed their disappointment with partnerships where the task division was not clear, or where they were not consulted on the scope of their involvement beforehand.
Be patient and flexible: the results might not come easily or immediately. One size does not fit all, and a successful exchange of best practices does not mean that they can be transplanted from one national context to another, or even from one local context to another. Best practises are frequently about changing the attitude more than using a specific method.
The winners of the 13th EAEA Grundtvig Awards were announced at the EAEA Grundtvig Award ceremony on 22 June: Alpha-Power from Austria won the prize in the category “national projects”, IROHLA from the Netherlands was awarded with the prize in the category “European projects”, and Comprehensive Abortion Care from Ghana won in the category “international projects”. This year’s theme of the award was Adult Education and Health.
As part of the AE-Pro project, key civil society actors gathered yesterday to present their advocacy work in the field of lifelong learning in the online training EAEA organises. Audrey Frith, Director of EUCIS-LLL, Rasmus Aberg, Secretary General of OBESSU, Laura Lopez-Bech, Policy Officer of the European Youth Forum and Louise Høj Larsen, Programme Officer of ETUCE presented their advocacy work to the audience, composed of almost 100 adult educators and staff from all over Europe. The webinar lasted around 1 hour and 30 minutes; presentations were followed by a Q&A round. The webinar will be available shortly online to further 200 learners that follow the course.
EURASHE is organising, with Flanders Knowledge Area (FKA), a Round Table on Staff Mobility in Brussels on 8 June 2015. The round table will work on the findings of the BFUG to organise peer-learning activities on the basis of an international SWOT-analysis and to define the key success factors for staff mobility. Staff mobility is considered as the involvement of staff members in international cooperation in the field of education, research and also the world of work. Staff members involved in international cooperation in higher education institutions affiliated to EURASHE are invited to join the round table, and to contribute to the poster session that will be organised on international staff mobility, activities, approaches, projects or institutional policies.