Between 4th and 6th of September 2012 EAEA organised a study visit in Brussels for a group of Adult Education professionals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia on behalf of dvv international, one of the EAEA members.
It had the purpose to increase the participants´ knowledge about the functioning of the EU, to deepen their understanding of European education and training policies and to enable them to share experiences and good practice among each other.
The group, which was composed of 18 professionals from civil society and national institutions, was welcomed by the EAEA Secretary General, Ms. Gina Ebner. She introduced the association, explained its key role in advocating adult education before the European Institutions and described the EAEA actions in support of the non-European countries.
Furthermore, the visit provided the participants with the possibility to discuss trends and developments in the European educational debate with a representative of the Adult Education Unit in the European Commission, Directorate General for the Education and Culture, Maike Koops. At that meeting, special attention was paid to the Erasmus for All programme proposal. Afterwards, thanks to the presentation of Marleen Voordeckers, participants learned how the European Agency of Education and Training (ETF) supports the Balkans countries.
Another interesting meeting was the one organised with the attachés for Education at the Representations to the EU of Cyprus (Mr. Loizos Solomou) and Denmark (Ms. Mette Andersen). The two experts explained how important the role of the EU Council Presidency is in the European legislative process, listed the current priorities of the Council as regards education and training and answered questions concerning the legislative procedure of the ‘Erasmus for all´ proposal within the Council.
The participants also had the occasion to learn how the European Civil Society Platform for Lifelong Learning (EUCIS-LLL) works and to be informed on the activities carried out by Solidar (Ms. Agata Patecka and Ms. Iva Zelic) and Concord (Mr. Tobias Troll) which are two European NGOs highly committed in the fields of education and development.
Moreover, the group met their national representatives and shared with them the civil society's point of view on the lifelong learning policies in their five countries.
During the whole study visit, participants were invited to reflect on the information received and they were guided in networking activities. Through these latter, interesting ideas of cooperation were proposed and some of them will probably lead to a future concrete cooperation. Coffee breaks and joint meals were also used as informal settings to continue discussions and share experiences.
When asked about their expectation of a possible cooperation with EAEA, participants underlined how beneficial it would be to receive regular information on Adult Education policies, to exchange views on key resources about national and European developments of adult education and to share best ideas and practice between the EAEA members. Furthermore they would like to have the opportunity to be involved in European projects and to be supported in achieving the EU standards. It was also highlighted how the EAEA membership would help their lobby and advocacy activities at a national level by improving the image of their associations, by contributing to their capacity building and by empowering them to improve their daily work.
It was an intense and fruitful week for both the participants and the EAEA staff. Indeed, thanks to this visit, EAEA now has the opportunity to understand better the strengths and challenges of adult education in the Western Balkans region.
Text: Francesca Operti