EAEA Younger Staff Training gathered adult education professionals from around Europe to network and to exchange ideas and challenges on adult education advocacy, communications and cooperation.
EAEA Younger Staff Training 2017 participants together with EAEA's Gina Ebner.
What is the role of stakeholders in shaping adult education policy? What are the important adult education policy initiatives on the European level? How can civil society representatives influence the EU adult education policy? These were among the questions discussed at the Younger Staff Training’s first day that focused on the policy advocacy on adult education.
“This move has opened new windows for adult education,” said Martina Ní Cheallaigh from the Adult Education and VET unit in the European Commission (DG EMPL). At the same time, she underlined the importance of civil society organisations’ role in having adult education sector’s voice heard.
She also highlighted the importance of European cooperation for adult education organisations.
“Many EU member states face similar challenges when it comes to education, that’s why European cooperation matters.”
Martina Ní Cheallaigh presented the EU initiatives on adult education, including the Upskilling Pathways initiative that addresses the need to improve the skills of adults with low levels of skills, knowledge and competences.
EAEA's Gina Ebner talked about the opportunities and challenges in doing advocacy work on the European level.
EAEA’s Secretary-General Gina Ebner presented EAEA policy advocacy work. There is a clear need identified for adult education, yet follow-up and understanding of what adult education can achieve are lacking.
“Adult education and lifelong learning are still marginalised on the political agenda, whereas its benefits for employability, active citizenship, health and personal well-being are evident.”
Education policy is often defined on national level. Still, EU policy on adult education has a lot of effect.
“Generally, the weaker a national system is, the more benefit European level has. Overall, European strategies, objectives and initiatives influence the national discussion and direction,” Gina Ebner said.
European Commission has set as one of the ET2020 benchmarks that 15% of adults participate in lifelong learning by the year 2020. Yet in 2016 the participation rate was only 10,8%. The average participants of adult education are dominantly females and rather young in age.
To ensure more participation in adult education, diverse groups of learners need to be engaged in adult learning. Francesca Operti from EAEA presented the implOED project that aims at convincing policy-makers and adult education practitioners of the importance of reaching out to disadvantaged learners and empower them through learning.
Participants got to do a lot of group exercises during the training.
Besides pondering on the different groups currently excluded from adult learning, the training participants got to shake their views on how they can implement outreach, empowerment and diversity in their daily job.
Silvia Terrenzio from Center for Basic Education Toekomstonderwijs presented the concept of self-organised learning where the teacher offers guidance but even more than that, encourages the learners to become active participants and boosts their creativity, and creates a safe space for that.
According to her, the different methods applied to teaching can raise the feeling of ownership and belonging in the group. She encourages using methods that stimulate spontaneity of the learners.
Another example of organising the normal routine of adult educators was provided by Ghislain De Bondt from Center for Basic Education ZOVL who talked about project-based learning in the classroom and in the organisation.
Participants doing a group exercise on communication.
He presented an example from his organisation, called the Big Project Week, that focuses on innovation and creativity and utilised less formal training methods. Since 2014, the organisation has organised a week during which all courses are dismissed and instead teachers hold workshops together with learners that are open to all learners. In other words, each year, during one week, all the curricula are – temporarily – thrown out of the window more experience driven and project-based learning applied. The evaluation of the project has been encouraging: the feedback indicated both the learners and teachers found it a fun way of learning. It also resulted into more initiatives that bring natives and immigrants together.
During the training, the participants also got to discuss the common challenges they face when communicating about adult education. The resources and capacities between different organisations vary but also common challenges, such as the challenges of communicating about adult education in general – to a broader audience – and about the organisation’s role in the sector.
The participants got to compare in groups the different approaches to writing a press release or drafting a social media post concerning adult education.
On the last day of the training the participants also got to exchange views and ideas on the implementation of European funded projects, tips on how to write good project applications and what to take into account when applying for EU funding.
“Being quite new in the adult education field, I feel I needed more information about the European cooperation on adult education. Before I has some information about different topics linked to it, but after the training I have a big puzzle of information. It is a great feeling and I am looking forward to be able to implement it into my work.
One of the most important things for me was to be able to communicate with other participants, about the policy work and advocacy work in their countries. Ukraine is only now developing policies in adult education and it’s important to hear about concrete steps and ways to do it, and how it has been done in other countries. It has been interesting to see that despite of how developed in the field a country is, we have some common challenges.
Even though Ukraine is not yet an EU country, we try to follow European priorities in adult education and our work is very much based on European documents and concepts on adult education. Our work can’t be separated from this, we feel like we are part of it.”
“As a new member organisation of the EAEA network we were very interested to know how EAEA works when it comes to promoting advocacy and how it works with other organisations in the field. It was interesting to talk with people who have an important role in this work, such as people working with EPALE and EAEA policy advocacy issues. It was a good opportunity to discuss what we should work on together, and also to get the opportunity to have your ideas included in the advocacy process.
These days we’ve seen it depends on the country, the place, the city and the area on how education policy is implemented. To find a policy that could satisfy and to formulate the advocacy it is important to also acknowledge the different needs and problems faced by different areas in Europe.”
“When I started in the field of adult education I had difficulty in getting the full landscape of adult education in Russia and not in other countries. I wanted to meet with professional who could provide me with this full picture.
In these trainings, people are the best part. I felt very integrated. Often you might think big associations are distant and unapproachable but then when you learn you can ask questions and get support, it’s priceless. It is important to have a network for advice and backup. I also liked to hear about different methodologies of adult education.
This training was an opportunity to broaden my own vision. To really be open and provide a versified approach to adult education, you need to study and meet with other people and see things from others’ point of view. Europe is an example of different cultures united, and it is interesting to see how is the balance between European level and national cultures level adult education.”
Text: Helka Repo
Photos: Helka Repo, Aleksandra Kozyra