We are three years into the European Education Area: time to take stock and ensure that we reach its objectives by 2030.

European Education Area: More recognition and structural funding for ALE can make it a success

Three years into the European Education Area (EEA), it is time to take stock of what the EEA means for adult learning and education. EAEA has prepared a response to the European Commission’s call for evidence for the interim evaluation of the European Education Area.

Creating learning opportunities for all adults

One of EAEA’s key demands has been met with the creation of a New European Agenda for Adult Learning to 2030. This forward-looking agenda, if adequately supported, holds the promise of significantly increasing adult participation in learning by the target year. Notably, the benchmark for adult learning participation has been raised to 60% by 2030, a substantial stride towards making learning opportunities accessible for all.

EAEA emphasises that European adult learning and education (ALE) policy initiatives and strategies should encompass all adults, including people not (or no longer) active in the labour market. Recognising the transformative power of non-formal ALE, EAEA calls for its enhanced recognition at all levels of policymaking, highlighting its ability to instill confidence in learners and create flexible learning pathways for all adults.

Funding is still not adequate to meet the needs of learners

To fortify ALE across Europe, EAEA calls for increased financial and structural resources. This aligns with the commitment made by UNESCO Member States in the Marrakech Framework for Action. The 2023 EAEA Country Reports Survey reveals a disconnect between national and regional policymakers and the full potential of ALE. Funding, where available, is often limited to labour market-oriented learning. EAEA members stress the urgent need for structural financial support for programmes addressing global challenges and promoting science learning, active citizenship, sustainability, and democracy.

Training opportunities and working conditions of adult educators need to be a focal point of political decision-making

While supporting the prioritisation of the digital and green transition, EAEA underscores the need to equip adult educators with the requisite skills and knowledge to guide learners through these transformations. Addressing existing gaps in digital access and skills is paramount, necessitating a substantial increase in funding for the initial and continuous training of educators. The working conditions and career prospects of adult educators are also a focal point of concern: better funding for ALE is urgently needed to provide good working conditions for adult educators and to find and retain staff for the sector.

Need for a general strengthening of ALE as a transversal political agenda

Furthermore, EAEA calls for a more assertive stance from the European Education Area and for a stronger inclusion and alignment of other political agendas with lifelong learning and ALE policy initiatives and strategies. The European Education Area has the potential to substantially shape education, learning and training systems in Europe, and it is imperative that all stakeholders work together to realise this vision – this includes a strong role of civil society.

Text: Raffaela KihrerPhotos: Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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