“The most important thing for me is to make sure that we can all work together”

The re-elected EAEA President Per Paludan Hansen underlines the importance of cooperation: the challenges of adult education are similar everywhere in Europe. In the next term he wants to further fortify EAEA’s lobbying work to strengthen the voice of adult education in Europe.

EAEA Communications Officer Aura Vuorenrinne (AV) interviews Mr. Paludan Hansen (PPH).

AV: How has adult education in the European level developed during your presidency?

PPH: A huge challenge on the policy level has been to get adult education in the agenda. If you look at where adult education is on the European agenda right now, it doesn’t look too good. EU politics are very much focused on growth and economics. In EAEA we’ve been adapting to this policy discourse.

For us it was a setback when the adult education unit was moved from Directorate-General for Education and Culture to the Directorate-General Employment in the European Commission a year ago. We still have good connections to the civil servants as they are the same people we worked with before. But it is still unsure what the new structures will look like. The Commissioner for Employment, Marianne Thyssen, is focused on President Jean-Claude Juncker’s agenda that aims to strengthen growth and create more workplaces in Europe. Adult education is not on the top of her agenda. Until now it seems that the environment where we have to work with our agenda has become more diffuse.

AV: How would you comment the internal work of EAEA during the past term?

PPH: Many of the projects we have been doing the last years have been quite successful. We were partners in the BeLL project from where we can draw good arguments for our work. The ARALE project gave us some good tools for advocating for adult education. And we have also worked with the PIAAC study and done some follow-up on the results.

We have had Board meetings in Brussels and around Europe. The conditions on national level are very different in respect of traditions but also in the respect of policy focus. Therefore, we have also learned is that the link between local, national and European level gets more and more important. As a European association, we have to focus on how we can strengthen adult education on all of these levels.

AV: What are the current challenges for adult education on the European level and what can you, as a President, do to overcome them?

PPH: The most important thing for me is to make sure that we can all work together. In the EAEA Board, we have set up a more long-term strategy and a short-term strategy. It is extremely important that we all work on the same agenda on the local, national and European level. That is what we learned when we were successful in our lobbying for the Erasmus+ programme. We worked on different levels and we therefore got a huge number of allies.

I think we should broaden the cooperation because the challenges we have on the national level are very similar than the ones we have on the European level. Therefore we are now working on a common manifesto on adult education. I hope it will be an inspirational tool for our members. From that we could hopefully build up a strategy paper on how we will approach the work together on the policy level.

AV: What are the current challenges for EAEA as an association?

PPH: We have too many ideas compared to the level of our funding! A challenge is that we are still quite a small association and we have to strongly prioritize our activities . Funding is still a very concrete challenge – for example the travel costs can be a concrete barrier for us.

During the past two years I have learned that the reputation of EAEA on the European level – how our partners both in the Commission and in other associations see our work – is fantastic. We really have a good reputation which is built on our good work of many years. It’s important that we keep on building this reputation over and over again. In order to be the voice of adult learning we have to show that EAEA is a serious and professional actor and that we are dedicated to our work.

AV: What do you want to achieve in the upcoming term?

PPH: For me it’s important that we strengthen the cooperation and that we keep this track that we are now on. We discuss very much how we can strengthen our lobbying work and how to strengthen the voice of adult education. For example, we have now built up our work with the European Parliament where we’ve now initiated the Interest Group on Lifelong Learning together with EUCIS-LLL. I have quite strong hopes for the work of this group – I wish we can engage more MEPs to work on our agenda.

When it comes to the European Commission, it’s more important that we work with the highest level: with the Commissioners and the Vice-Presidents. It is extremely important that there will be a stronger policy focus on adult education and therefore we have started lobbying for havinga European Year for AdultLearning in 2018.

It’s important to continue working on getting more members and we also have to focus on having good partners in other regions and on the global level. I think it’s also important that we keep in mind that Europe is more than the European Union. For our members from Azerbaijan to Ireland, EAEA should be an inspiration and a meeting place with our networks, with our projects and with our communication work. In the future, EAEA could be a place where we collect our work practises, discuss what are the most important arguments for adult education and exchange experiences and ideas.

Text: Aura VuorenrinnePhotos: Aura Vuorenrinne

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