The meeting participants discussed the role adult education can play in reaching out to disadvantaged learners but also in the refugee crisis, European instruments as EQF and ESF, the skills agenda and the importance of the cooperation between DG EAC and DG EMPL to keep a lifelong learning approach with a renewed focus on democracy and active citizenship.
European instruments for adult learning: the European Social Fund and European Qualifications Framework (EQF)
Ms. Fionda was particularly interested in hearing from the experiences the association and its members have with the European Social Fund and with the European Qualifications Framework, as DG EMPL is currently developing the skills agenda and is looking into EQF and other instruments.
“In Austria, we have state funded programme for language learning, for example, that are also funded by the ESF. It allows doubling the amount of spots and is used very effectively for integration,” said EAEA Board member Gerhard Bisovsky.
”In Estonia, there was a very good cooperation between authorities and CSOs on local level and the funds were used very successfully” illustrated EAEA Secretary General Gina Ebner.
Upskilling people: priority of the European Skills Agenda
“We will issue a European Skills Agenda in first quarter of 2016“ said Ms Fionda. “We are looking at helping people get new skills and progress in work.”
The Commissioner’s three main priorities are upskilling people, VET and recognition of skills. The EAEA Board underlined on the one hand the importance of training people with transversal skills that are crucial for employment too, and on the other hand the difficulty to talk about upskilling the most disadvantaged people that are hard to reach out.
“Adult education is “messy”, said Joyce Black, EAEA’s Vice-President. “If we want to reach out to learners that would not come to courses on their own, we need to understand that it’s a long journey that is not necessarily linear. We need to provide support for these learners too.”
“Before upskilling people, we need to get them back into learning, said Ms Ebner. ”We have many examples of learners that started with some leisure course before moving on to completing degrees that allow them to find a new job. To achieve this, we need more recognition of the different forms of learning. Adult education reaches out to people that had bad experiences with schools and don’t want to go back.”
For a lifelong learning approach
EAEA President Per Paludan Hansen underlined again the importance of the cooperation with the whole lifelong learning scope, now that adult education and VET are under DG EMPL and not DG EAC anymore. Recent events as the Paris attacks and more recently the refugee crisis, which has seen civil society take an important role as facilitator , underline that more citizenship education is needed to learn to live together in society.
“We would like to have a European Year for Adult Learning to underline the importance of learning as a tool to get stronger cohesion on both the national and European level,” said Mr Paludan Hansen.
The EAEA Board would like to thank again Ms Fionda for taking the time to meet them and for the constructive approach.
Text: Tania BermanPhotos: Tapio Kujala