27.12.2016

From measuring to a broader understanding of adult education

While hardly anyone would disagree with the impact of non-formal adult education on active citizenship, social inclusion and well-being, the current state of financing adult education in Europe (and beyond) suggests otherwise. Drawing on the outcomes of the EC Working Group on Financing Adult Learning from 2013, the FinALE project explores several aspects of financing adult learning. The project seeks to develop different tools and indicators that can be used for advocacy at local, national and European level.

The project consortium met in Copenhagen on 29 and 30 September 2016 to discuss the first two modules of the project: an analysis of why to invest in adult education, and indicators for the funding and benefits of adult education.

Monetary value = value for the individual and society?

The partners reported about the experience from their countries.

“The funding of adult education in Nordic countries such as Denmark is still good compared to other countries and regions,” said Trine Bendix Knudsen, whose organisation DAEA hosted the meeting. However, not everywhere the situation is as rosy. In some of the countries of the partners, funding for adult education increased as a result of the “migration crisis”, but this seems to be rather a temporary measure and will not secure long-term funding.

“It becomes increasingly important to be able to quantify the Return on Investment in order to secure funding,” told Gerhard Bisovsky from the Association of Austrian Adult Education Centres.

Nicholas Fox (Individual Learning Company) added: “There is no agreement across Europe concerning the monetary value that individuals give to adult education offers. Does putting a higher price tag on courses and trainings also mean better quality? The commodification of adult education is a challenge for many organisations and learning centres at the grassroots level.”

Towards better indicators for adult education

FinALE strives to develop and improve indicators for adult education, both for providing better data-sets on the benefits of adult education as well as measuring the financing of adult education.

FinALE project partners met in Copengahen to discuss how adult education funding could be improved.

“Adult education is very diverse and fragmented, from formal, to non-formal and informal adult learning; from vocational to non-vocational adult education. We need indicators that are relevant and practical to use at the various levels,” said Nicholas Fox.

Gina Ebner, EAEA Secretary General, reminded that adult education and its benefits should be seen in a broader perspective.

“Adult education benefits society as a whole, and not just the individual,” she said. “It positively impacts the well-being and better health of a person, social and political inclusion as well as inclusion in the labour market. This, in turn, impacts society, as we have seen in the BeLL study.”

Bringing the benefits of adult learning to the foreground

Highlighting the benefits of adult learning by developing indicators is one of the central objectives of FinALE. The indicators will reflect three levels: the individual, the social and the economic level.

In the next step, the project partners will do research into funding tools and best practices of funding adult learning. The learners’ voice will be included as well: through learner stories, they will be able to tell about their experience in adult learning. The first results of the project will be presented at the Southern European multiplier event on 4 and 5 April 2017 in Porto, Portugal.

More information

Text: Raffaela KihrerPhotos: European Commission, Raffaela Kihrer

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