Christian Social Union in Bavaria, Germany

Collective answer from the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU).

1. What does lifelong learning mean to you?

For the CSU, lifelong learning means – like the word already suggests – learning from early childhood until old age. Lifelong learning does not end with graduation from school, graduation from an apprenticeship training or with a university diploma, but instead constitutes a lifelong process.

Therefore, alongside of education in early childhood, at school and at university, we want to promote adult education – and we also specified that in our policy statements. In times of rapid societal change, lifelong learning and the development of personal skills become more important. Adult education gives people from all generations and classes in society the possibility to better qualify themselves, to develop their personality and to gain higher social competences. Adult education supports people at every age to participate in working life, culture and society. For this reason, the CSU stands for adult education. Informed and educated citizens with a reflected value orientation are the basis of a powerful community that is supported by civic engagement. Education is the key to a living democracy.

2. How would you support adult education and lifelong learning in case of your election?

The task of politics is to set the juridical and financial framework, to ensure quality and transparency, to support innovations, to initiate research, and to inform the public. The access to further education must not fail because of financial, regional or cultural barriers. In Germany, we have already reached our first target to increase the citizens’ participation in further education until 2015 [: In Europe,] at least 15 percent of the adult population between the age of 15 and 64 should participate in adult education. At the moment, an average of 9.3 percent of adults in the EU participate in formal and non-formal adult education, according to the last European labour force survey. In this regards, we face a need for action. Due to this, it is so much the better that we have embedded a new European Agenda for Adult Learning (succeeding “Adult learning: It is never too late to learn” 2006, and the Action Plan on Adult learning – “It’s never too late to learn” 2007) in the common strategy “Europe 2020” with the Council of the European Union.

The four central targets in the agenda are lifelong learning and mobility, quality and efficiency, promotion of equality, social coherence and active citizenship, as well as innovation and creativity. These targets form the framework for the implementation of the European Agenda for Adult Learning in the member states. The new agenda underlines vocational training and adult education stronger than the previous action plan. The two existing European initiatives, the Bologna Process, targeted at universities, and the Kopenhagen Process, targeted at vocational training, will be enlarged by a separate process for fostering adult education. Together with the EU, we set an example and highlight the importance of adult education. The agenda is thus an important step for strengthening the consciousness about the growing importance of adult education – be it formal, non-formal or informal education, be it in the context of work or general education – and to emphasise the value of adult education in terms of labour market needs and personal aspects. To achieve the goals of the agenda and to realise them, National Coordination Offices (NKS) were established. The linking of European and national processes through establishing connections with the existing structures, especially at the national level, takes centre stage. The agenda can fulfil its task only in cooperation with the national, federal, regional and communal level. Currently, there are 33 National Coordination Offices in the EU. The German Coordination Office is based at the National Agency Education for Europe at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (NA beim BIBB) und works on behalf of the European Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

3. How can education offers support underprivileged groups (elderly, migrants, etc.) in a way that they ameliorate their social integration?

Concerning an EU-wide support, the priority topics are derived from the higher ranking strategy “Europe 2020”, the former constituting the frame for national priority setting. In cooperation with the National Committee, two core areas for the implementation of the European Agenda for Adult Education from 2012 to 2014 were agreed upon. Both topics reflect current national priorities in education policy as well as thematic core areas of the European Agenda for Adult Learning, and they relate to underprivileged groups. The first core area concerns demographic change and therefore active ageing. The European Agenda for Adult Learning envisages in topic 3 (promotion of equality of chances, social coherence and active citizenship through adult education) amongst others the improvement of the educational offer for elder adults in the framework of active ageing. We set the second core area in basic skills education, alphabetisation, which is also derived from the third priority of the European Agenda Adult Education. This core area calls for an improvement of reading, writing and mathematics skills of adults, development of ICT-knowledge and creation of possibilities which allow adults for obtaining basic skills and forms of education that are indispensable for an active participation in society. With both measures we support the social integration of two underprivileged groups.

4. What is, in your opinion, the role of non-formal adult education in the implementation of the EU education policy?

The task of non-formal adult education must be the complementation of formal organisations and to become active where there is not yet enough formal adult education. People and their demand for knowledge are very different. Non-formal actors can take better care of small and/or special groups and their demands. Only both forms together ensure a big offer in adult education, and only through both forms, a large number of adults can be attracted for lifelong learning.

5. How would you like to encourage non-governmental stakeholders in adult education?

The CSU considers it important to cooperate with non-governmental stakeholders, with associations, unions, institutes etc. and to promote and support their work. The support from politics is normally based on grant programmes (see e.g. Erasmus+), respectively on financial means. The design and planning of the particular measures falls to the stakeholders on site. They know best about the needs of people on site and which measures have to be launched in order to win more people for adult education. We, in politics, have to distribute the financial means efficiently, according to needs, as fair as possible, and profitable.

6. Would you support a “European Flagship campaign on adult education and learning”, and if yes, how?

We still consider the principle of federalism as important. Europe-wide campaigns may be a good additional idea, but they are not a top priority for us. We are conscious of the fact that adult education becomes more important in the European Union; therefore, we have set the objective to raise the participation of the population in adult education by 10 percent until the year 2020. It has to be decided on site which particular measures are needed in the countries. This depends on cultural, local, geographical, demographic and many other factors, so that a “European Flagship campaign” can only be an additional measure.