The European Education Area draws on a lifelong learning approach; however, adult learning and non-formal education receive little coverage in it.
15.12.2020

Where are the adults in the European Education Area?

In a statement published in November 2020, EAEA welcomed the Communication on the European Education Area, launched by the European Commission as a cornerstone of European education and lifelong learning policy for the period until 2025. However, EAEA notes that adult learning and non-formal education receive little coverage throughout the communication. 

Read EAEA’s full statement here.

EAEA believes that the strategic vision set out in the European Education Area cannot stand without (non-formal) adult education as a key contributor to meet the challenges posed by the 21st century, including the Covid-19 crisis. It is adults who are today’s decision makers and voters sustaining or influencing change in Europe. Their knowledge, capacity and learning builds the groundwork to address the urgency of recovery, to decrease the burden for next generations and to pave the way to the future that Europe anticipates. The recognition of the value of adult education in the European Education Area could help to accelerate funding through the creation of new financing schemes at the national and regional levels as well as promote the professionalisation of the sector.

Policy coherence across all areas of education and training is a central component to ensure lifelong learning. While the Skills Agenda and the Education Area are two important overarching policy strategies, adult learning and education needs a framework that sets priorities for the coming years, potentially bridges the gaps between the Skills Agenda and the European Education Area, and ensures a continuation of the work done through the European Agenda for Adult Learning, which expires in 2020. Such a policy initiative would aid to underline the plans outlined in the European Recovery and Resilience Facility, which proposes re- and upskilling as a flagship action. EAEA urges the Commission to consider the importance of ALE and to manifest their commitment to lifelong learning by publishing a continuation of the European Agenda for Adult Learning. 

Life Skills are at the centre of non-formal ALE. Therefore, EAEA welcomes the European Education Area’s approach to “mastering transversal skills” such as critical thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity and civic engagement and sees the ALE sector as a core provider of these skills. Additionally, ALE can serve as a platform to foster language learning, promote cultural diversity and the European way of life. On the road towards the European Green Deal, the ALE sector can be a catalyst for the twin transition, fostering the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values necessary to instigate digital and green readiness and resilience. Therefore, EAEA urges the European Commission to include Life Skills for all as a central component in the Area.

A 21st century approach to inclusive lifelong learning, as proposed in the European Education Area, should be intersectional and equally committed to promote learning of all socially and structurally marginalised groups. Micro-credentials could – if implemented in a holistic way – help learners to validate their skills in a way that is recognised by employers and other educational institutions, thereby fostering up- and reskilling also of those furthest away from (formal) learning. Increased participation in adult learning and education, as proposed in the European Education Area, requires the financial and structural support of the ALE sector to ensure that the new benchmark of 50% participation can be achieved.

Text: EAEA, Jana Ahlers, Raffaela KihrerPhotos: European Union 2020

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