"PIAAC study is a wake-up call for action for MEPSs, teachers and NGOs around Europe", concluded the MEP Kent Johansson in his opening remarks at the EAEA Policy Debate PIAAC: What does it mean for adult learning? on December 3. EAEA recommends investment in adult education to create a genuinely inclusive learning society of Europe.
According to the OECD´s PIAAC study on adult skills, around 20 percent of European adults have low literacy and numeracy skills. Gap in literacy proficiency between generations is also getting wider.
EAEA gathered MEPs and European Commission representatives, as well as civil society actors to debate the PIAAC results and build up further actions.
According to the EAEA adult education is a key for enhancing skills, competences and social participation in Europe. PIAAC proves that person´s skills tend to decline over the years, which demonstrates the importance of adult education.
"The saying ‘use it or lose it´ applies to skills and competences. Adult education can tackle this problem", reminded EAEA Vice-President Katarina Popovic.
EAEA recommends public investment in adult learning and support for campaigns underlining the personal and social benefits of non-formal learning. Studies show that investing in adult education saves money for example from health costs.
"Besides economic benefits, adult learning helps build better societies overall and brings joy to the learner", reminded Una Buckley, an adult learner from Ireland.
EAEA underlines the importance of supporting the learning of disadvantaged groups, such as immigrants. Immigrants with foreign-language background have significantly lower proficiency in literacy and numeracy skills than native-born adults.
"To be a genuinely inclusive society, it is very important that migrants´ competencies are fully supported", Popovic reminded.
Adult education enhances participation in societies. According to PIAAC there is a clear relation between trust and literacy levels.
"Adult education adds people´s believe in their abilities to impact their surroundings and thus adds political efficiency", Popovic concluded.
Studies such as PIAAC give lobbying tools for NGOs. According to Antra Carlsen from the Nordic Network for Adult Learning - NVL reflection on national level is important.
"So far there has been too little reflection of the PIAAC results in EU member states. Also the countries that did well - such as the Nordic countries - need to reflect their progress in the study", she reminded.
For the European Commission, PIAAC offers a tool in tailoring policy.
"Improving education and skills policies need strong evidence. PIAAC provides this evidence", said Dana Bachmann, the Head of Unit of the DG Education and Training of the European Commission.
The challenge now lies in turning the study findings into active policy.
"We will discuss with the members states how to translate the outcomes of PIAAC into policy. I believe that EAEA and the European Commission should work together in a creative partnership to enhance adult education as a political priority", Bachmann concluded.
Text and photo: Helka Repo