Adult education provides competences, information, debating spaces and creativity to develop new approaches necessary for sustainable development. A paradigm shift is only possible through critical, conscious and innovative citizens.

Today sustainability is a global challenge with economic, social and environmental dimensions. Adult education contributes to sustainability on all levels not only through the provision of skills, knowledge and competences. Social inclusion, activecitizenship, health and personal well-being are also among the most prevalent objectives. Adult education provides information, debating spaces and creativity to develop new lifestyles, new projects, and new approaches necessary for sustainable development.

Adult education contributes to sustainable growth

Looking at the global Agenda 2030 adult learning contributes to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by building the foundations of change in the social, political, economic, ecological and cultural spheres. In each of the 17 goals at least one target involves learning, training, education or at the very least, awareness-raising for education. At the same time, adult education and lifelong learning are not only a transversal goal and method to achieving the SDGs, but also a specific goal. According to SDG4 inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities need to be ensured for all.

Adult education makes a huge contribution to the Lisbon agenda for sustainable, smart and inclusive growth. Adult education boosts jobs and growth and the digital single market. By supporting sustainability, adult education contributes to the energy union and a forward-looking climate change policy. Adult education strengthens the single market, for example, by providing the skills for the free movement of workers, as well as supports the European values and trust.

Research evidence

Studies show there is a geographic overlap between high biodiversity and cultural diversity. 

Studies on the interrelation between biodiversity and cultural diversity show that in as many as 95% of examples, there is a geographic overlap between high biological and cultural diversity (Alcorn, according to Clover et al. 2010). Yet valuable sources of traditional local knowledge are not fully appreciated or widely shared and improved within organised education programs – though they may have a strong influence on the resilience of a community in many ways, including prevention or reduction of the growing risks of natural disasters, often related to climate change effects. Another paradigm shift – from vulnerability towards joint development of `enabling community´ – is hard to achieve without the participation of adult citizens in education programs and activities (Orlovic Lovren and Pejatovic 2015). 

Good practice

A project introduced a eco-friendly solar-cooking in adult education centres in Georgia. 

In the framework of the DVV International’s grant program `Innovation in Adult Education´ the interactive museum `Shuqura´ implemented a project: `Solar Kitchen or paraboloidal Sunlight Cooker´. The aim of the project was to introduce the use of solar light energy as the one of most efficient natural resources and support popularisation of eco-friendly solar-cooking method in Georgia. With this aim the Shuqura Museum created five solar cookers and distributed them to five Adult Education Centers in Georgia. The project increases awareness on using natural resources efficiently and offers the local community an alternative way of energy use. The adult education centres are using the solar cooker for the benefits of community, culinary classes and during public outdoor events. In addition, all the involved centers created ecological counselling services and are working with local communities to disseminate information on ecological issues including sustainable buildings and materials as well as social and environmental development.

Good practice

Energy Efficiency Driving License teaches about climate protection and energy saving in Austria. 

The Umweltberatung in Austria (eco-counseling) has developed the Energy Efficiency Driving License (EEDL). The EEDL is a tool for energy saving in private households, in small and middle-sized enterprises and in communities in order to meet the needs for climate protection and energy savings. Energy saving in everyday life contributes to the reduction of energy costs, which is particularly important for people and households at risk of poverty. A conscious use of energy and the development of energy-efficient lifestyles and behaviours is therefore also a contribution to the reduction of costs and helps combat poverty. The conscious use of energy in the work context contributes to increasing competitiveness through cost reduction. Enterprise-supported resourcehandling can also encourage employees to contribute to sustainability in their own private lives.