How will adult learning and education providers be supported in the implementation of the Individual Learning Accounts?

How will adult learning and education providers be supported in the Individual Learning Accounts?

On 31 May 2022, the Council Recommendation on individual learning accounts was adopted. What does it hold in store for adult learning and education (ALE)? EAEA believes that there needs to be stronger support for the supply side of ALE, adequate quality assurance and a learner-centred approach.

Read the full statement: Individual Learning Accounts: How will ALE providers be supported?

We welcome that Individual Learning Accounts are a right that individuals can bring to bear and that they are a funding tool for participation in ALE where there are few other funding opportunities for learners. In particular, we are also pleased that Individual Learning Accounts are transferable, even if the professional and personal situation of individuals changes. Moreover, we appreciate that the Council Recommendation makes the link to guidance and validation opportunities and urge Member States to provide these services either free of charge or in the framework of their individual learning entitlements. If implemented well, Individual Learning Accounts have the potential to increase participation rates in ALE.

We, therefore, find it all the more regrettable that the Council Recommendation is explicitly aimed at the adult population of working age only. This could lead to a widening of the learning gap between those who are in the labour force and tend to be more highly educated and those who are not (yet) or no longer in the labour force. Those who need adult learning the most – disadvantaged and vulnerable groups such as indigenous learners, rural populations, migrants, older citizens, people with disabilities or prisoners – do not have adequate access to learning opportunities. The limitation to adults of working age reduces the opportunities for these target groups to be socially included and participate in society through learning. This also contradicts the principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights that everyone has the right to lifelong learning, and, at the same time, limits Individual Learning Accounts to a labour market tool.

The major concern for us is that Individual Learning Accounts are being offered without clear support for the supply side. Especially where ALE organisations want to ensure greater provision and include more learners in their programmes, strong investment in ALE providers, organisations and structures is absolutely necessary.  Any new funding instruments on the demand side of learning – in this case, Individual Learning Accounts – need to be complemented by additional funding instruments on the supply side of ALE to avoid imbalances in the system and to assure that ALE structures are strong enough to deal with additional demand from learners.

To ensure that Individual Learning Accounts will be implemented successfully, we urge Member States:

  • To strongly invest in the supply side of adult learning and education, including in ALE providers and organisations to support operational capacity, professional development of staff, and infrastructure, to enable ALE structures to keep up with the additional demand through Individual Learning Accounts
  • To strengthen ALE systems at the national, regional and local levels by giving ALE providers AND learners a voice in decision-making processes: they know best about learning needs of adults
  • To build on existing ALE structures and to strengthen them as well as to develop and implement suitable quality assurance systems to guarantee high quality learning provision
  • To use wide definitions of ‘eligible trainings’ that include non-formal learning programmes, such as ‘leisure courses’ (including language and ICT classes), that might not appear useful in terms of their labour-market-usefulness at first sight, but can be a gateway to further learning
  • To provide additional financial support mechanisms for those that are not eligible in the ILA scheme, including people who are not in the labour market and are not of working age, to ensure social inclusion and support the right to lifelong learning for everyone
  • To ensure ILA’s are accessible to all learners, including through the use of simple language and the provision of non-digital options to access information about learning offers

We call on the European Commission and the European Parliament:

  • To incentivise Member States to provide structural and financial support to ALE at the national, regional and local levels
  • To incentive Member States to use wide definitions of eligible training so that the widest possible group of adults can be included in learning
  • To closely monitor the implementation of the Individual Learning Accounts through regular reporting and country visits

Text: EAEAPhotos: EAEA

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