Why do we need adult education?

Young adult educators involved in AE-PRO project listed three current challenges for adult education in their home countries.

"We need inclusion of all"

August Nilsson, 28, Pedagogue and project manager, Glokala Folkhögskolan, Malmö, Sweden.

1. We need to involve people in the political discussion and increase their understanding of democracy. Besides the European parliamentary elections, Sweden faces national parliamentary elections this year. People should be invited to engage in the political debate and able to understand the messages of the political parties. Adult education has the potential to develop and contribute to democracy and to the active participation of adults in society.

2. We should engage people in conversations of a more sustainable society and how we can develop our common welfare. We need an organized way of moving towards a sustainable society. Adult education can contribute to facilitating grassroots projects on for example energy, food and housing issues. Folk high schools and study associations already provide some courses on the topics, but adult education actors could be much more involved on the local level, acting as hubs for citizen-driven initiatives.

3. Educational policy is high on the political agenda in Sweden, with many voices calling for more of measuring and stricter knowledge-centered curriculums. The participative pedagogical approach in non-formal adult education has a very important role to play, taking a stand for the more process-oriented, collective and experiential pedagogical tradition. Instead of focusing on tests and measurement, the importance of curiousity, exploration and interaction needs to be emphasized. This also calls for more resources to the educational sector, which is naturally a corner-stone in the development of the common welfare.


"Human rights on the agenda"

Maja Maksimovic, 30, teaching assistant, University of Belgrade, Serbia

1. The economic paradigm is ruling in Serbia and in Europe in general. Now more than ever we should take a look in the mirror and be critical about our practice. Adult education should be critical also of its own role. We should be working with people, not for people. Non-formal and informal adult education shouldn’t be seen as a rescuer of formal education but rather parallel to it.

2. We should pay more attention to human rights. Gender equality and LGBT rights are not addressed enough in Serbia. Adult education could help address the issue and contribute to the modernizing of the views on both topics.

3. To encourage people to come out, to speak their truth, to enagage in creative work with others, to share, to feel and to enable a sense of togetherness. There is a lack of peoples’ trust in society and themselves I belive that adult education should encourage peple to come out, to speak their truth, to enagage in creative work with others, to share, to feel and to enable a sense of togetherness.


"Learner in the center"

Alexandra Cardoso, 34, psychopedagogue, trainer of trainers, KERIGMA, Portugal.

1.  In Portugal lots of adults have high levels of illiteracy. Adult education can address the issue by attracting adults into learning. A long-term adult education strategy is needed to reach this goal.

2. Portuguese validation system has recently faced positive changes, such as opening up the professional vocational orientation also to young people and a greater focus to the double certification. At the same time there is no foreseeable short term financial support for these structures that complement the validation of non-formal learning pathways. In the past, funds were given by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the government, and now no funds are foreseen in short term period.

3. We live in a time in which the EU and national governments strategically bet on continuous learning and adult education with a focus on employability skills and work needs, so what space will soft skills and transversal competences take? Soft skills keep being undervalued when we talk about training and personal development. It is important to analyze in what way soft skills will be integrated and thought about in future strategies that will be aimed at employability, and that often are not acquired through the formal educational system.

Text and photos: Helka Repo