The 2018 edition of the EAEA Younger Staff Training, held on 24-28 September in Brussels, brought together 16 professionals working in adult education in Europe to exchange about the diversity of policy and practice in the field. Organized around a different theme on each day, the five-day training explored topics such as policy and advocacy, the contribution of adult learning to the inclusion of migrants, and the concept of life skills.
Held annually since 2011, the training has evolved over the years, introducing new topics and methods. This year, for the first time, the Younger Staff Training participants visited a local adult education centre.
Regardless of the changes, the focus on peer-learning has remained key. Representing a variety of countries and organisations – such as local study centres in Finland, an open university in Croatia or an online platform for adult education in Austria – the participants this year brought different perspectives.
“The adult education in my country sessions, which you have in the programme every day, are there for a reason: we’d like to encourage you to compare your challenges and how you work with them,” explained Gina Ebner, EAEA Secretary General, welcoming the participants at the training.
From analyzing the challenges to finding ways to meet them
As the participants explored over the week, some challenges are common across Europe.
“There are 61 million adults in the EU with low qualifications,” said Alexia Samuel from the Adult Learning Unit at DG EMPL, European Commission, setting the scene for the current EU policy frameworks in adult education. The key initiative launched at the European level to tackle the low skills challenge is the Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults, which invites Member States to identify priority target groups and outline relevant measures.
Although EU policy documents on education are not binding for the Member States, they do influence the national discussion and direction, becoming part of agreements and funding. “They can also become arguments in advocacy work,” highlighted Gina. Discussing the role of civil society and advocacy at the European level, she highlighted a number of challenges, such as the diversity and fragmentation of the adult education sector in Europe, the difficulty in building long-term contacts with representatives of EU institutions and the exclusion of civil society from many political processes.
“We’re all advocates for adult education, no matter which level we’re working at,” Gina emphasized. This was followed up at a workshop led by Raffaela Kihrer, EAEA Policy Officer, during which the participants discussed the steps to good advocacy and learnt different techniques that can be used to create an advocacy campaign. The participations also designed their own advocacy campaigns in groups.
Empowering the migrant community through popular education
A study visit to Le Monde des Possibles in Liège brought insight into the different ways in which adult learning can foster the inclusion of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at the grassroots level. By using a popular education methodology, the centre supports migrant communities to not only participate in, but lead a community-based process, and give voice to their own experiences and claims for fundamental rights.
Alongside offering classes of French as a foreign language and IT courses, which the Younger Staff Training participants got a chance to observe, Le Monde des Possibles has also established a few initiatives that help the newly arrived make the first connections with the local community. Our colleagues from Liège were keen to share the outcomes of 109, a mentoring programme engaging senior citizens, or Sirius – Liège Coding School, which is open to migrants and the locals alike.
Navigating between several funding streams, Le Monde des Possibles strives to keep an integrated approach across a number of projects. “Bringing the added value of project results to our everyday work is one of our key objectives,” told us Didier Van der Meeren, Director of Le Monde des Possibles.
Motivating learners through a life-skills approach
Different aspects of project work were also highlighted on the following day by Francesca Operti, EAEA Project Manager. Before discussing tips for writing a successful project application, Francesca presented Life Skills for Europe, an Erasmus+ KA2 project that aims to upscale the life skills approach to adult learning.
Understood as a constituent part of capabilities for life and work in a particular context, life skills are a response to the needs of an individual in real life situations. The project consortium defined eight types of capabilities, ranging from literacy or numeracy to environmental or civic capabilities. A comprehensive analysis of the understanding of life skills across Europe and a collection of tools that are used complement the project findings.
“The Life Skills for Europe project promotes learning which is designed, delivered and evaluated with an active participation of learners. This makes it close to their needs and thus increases their motivation exponentially,” explained Francesca.
Building up on the discussion in the morning, which focused on the concept of basic skills and the practice level in different countries, the participants looked together at how the life skills approach fits within the two categories.
The training wrapped up with an interactive networking session and a visit to the European Parliament.
In the words of the participants
“What I liked best is that I got to know a lot of people working in adult education and that I learnt about adult education in other countries. I also found it great to hear about advocacy campaigns and that we learnt how to develop our own campaign in a workshop. It is truly a hands-on experience that gives you a very comprehensive picture of adult learning and the good practices from other countries.”
– Marica Vukomanovic, EPALE Serbia
“The Younger Staff Training is really exceptional because you can share your experiences with a lot of other people working in the field from all around Europe. The trainers give you amazing ideas for writing projects and creating advocacy campaigns. I can highly recommend the training because it gives you inspirations that you cannot find anywhere else. Everybody working in adult learning should participate in the Younger Staff Training at least once!”
– Avto Dolidze, DVV International Georgia
“What I liked most were the many interactive sessions in which we learnt about adult education in each country and shared our experience. I particularly appreciated the peer learning in small groups that encouraged reflection without any fear. The field trip to Liège was a great experience as it allowed me to see how migrant education works in another country. I recommend the Younger Staff Training for getting to know the European level of adult education and to meet peers as well as representatives of other organisations and policy-makers in the field.”
– Bruna Romano Pretzel, Arbeitskreis deutscher Bildungsstätten, Germany
“The course allowed me to learn about adult learning in other countries and to exchange information and network with peers. The things that I learnt in the training will be very useful for my work as an educator. I would recommend the Younger Staff Training very much to anyone working in adult education!”
– Géraldine Pereira da Silva, Centro Qualifica – Agrupamento de Escolas de Azambuja, Portugal
- Photo gallery of the EAEA Younger Staff Training 2018
- Information about the EAEA Younger Staff Training
The next edition of the EAEA Younger Staff Training will take place in September 2019. Would you like to join us in Brussels next year? If interested, please contact Aleksandra Kozyra at aleksandra.kozyra (at) eaea.org
Text: Aleksandra KozyraPhotos: EAEA