Adult education needs to go back to its roots and focus on the issue of social inclusion instead of just skills for economic competitiveness. This was the message of Professor Licínio Lima who shared his views on the state of adult education and democracy with EAEA.
Licínio Lima is a professor of sociology in the education department at the University of Minho in Portugal. He participated in the EAEA General Assembly and discussed his opinions on democracy and adult education. He feels that the dominant discourse of economy and competitiveness is reflecting on the way we talk about adult education.
“Adult education should not be seen as just an instrument for the EU economic policy or unemployment. We should not shy away from these problems that are affecting societies but neither should we merely focus on them. Adult education has a much wider educational and cultural task,” he says.
Professor Lima criticises the European Union’s way of harnessing lifelong learning as a medicine for the economic competitiveness.
“When education is seen as a tool for human resources management, the humanistic and transformative characteristics of adult education are being forgotten.”
Instead he underlines the connection between adult education and democracy. He sees adult education as contributing to social improvement, democracy and citizenship, solidarity and social justice.
“Adult education can serve as raising public awareness on undemocratic threats and help increase active citizenship. That way we can bring more people into the re-creation of our social world,” Professor Lima says.
For the democratisation of democracy Professor Lima suggests we take some inspiration from the times when adult education was born.
“When adult education was created it was much more connected to the social movements such as the trade union movements or suffragist movement. We should try to get closer to the social movements of today.”
According to Professor Lima, in today’s world, adult education should not settle for being just functional or “well behaved” didactical instrument or merely concentrate on providing vocational education. There are other institutions - such as enterprises - that can offer these services in a more effective way.
“I believe that adult education should become more ‘dangerous’ and regain its potential for transformation. This means being powerful, critical and active - adult education politically and democratically engaged, not only economically engaged. We need to voice all the dimensions of adult education also to policy makers.”
Text and photo: Helka Repo