Die LinkeDIE LINKE, Germany

Collective answer from the political group DIE LINKE.

1. What does lifelong learning mean to you?

The policy for education must focus on making learning possible all throughout life. The policy must ensure equal access to learning opportunities – for everyone. Providing citizens with continued learning opportunities after leaving school – including introductory professional training – lays the foundation for professional and social participation. The term "Lifelong learning" includes realisation of personal educational interests as well as qualification for professional re-orientation or further education in a professional field. The different sectors within the educational system have to be developed and promoted as periods that are independent of each other, yet fulfilling different needs. Learning opportunities outside of the formal school system are constantly increasing in importance. That does not mean, however, that other educational periods should be limited or restricted by the concept of lifelong learning.

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

Today, people's lives are increasingly shaped by changes in their career paths. Still, public expenditure on further education keeps getting reduced. Initiatives to fund further opportunities, allocated by various job agencies, are becoming increasingly limited in scope – and only partially financed. This situation calls for substantial changes within the political landscape. For DIE LINKE, the right to education means providing a guarantee for basic education, accessible to everybody. That includes civic education and social orientation. We need to improve the financial and juridical framework within the field. Education is a task for society as a whole, and it has to be financed by the state.

The logic and the rules of the free market do not work for education and the system has failed in providing secure circumstances for providers of further education. At the moment, different educational offers are barely distinguishable for individual learners, making choices for their future lives. The austerity measures of the last few years have provoked a destructive price competition between education providers, ultimately resulting in a lack of quality across the board. In many cases, teachers in further education work for increasingly low salaries, reducing the overall level of wages within the field. Comprehensive educational offers and innovative concepts are often only available for those with big wallets. For this reason, DIE LINKE advocates valorisation of further education and lifelong learning in society. Lifelong learning must not measured in terms of short-time economic usability, but instead be understood – next to professional qualification – as a contribution to cultural and social emancipation.

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

Education is, now more than ever, an important requirement for participation in society and for livingeading a self-determined life. Therefore, educational offers have to counteract discrimination. In practice, this means that nobody may be discriminated for his or her social, cultural or ethnic origin or for his or her initial position within the educational system. Differences have to be embraced as normal, and education institutes, schools etc. have to adjust to that.

DIE LINKE advocates the reduction of existing barriers and inequalities in the educational system. This means demanding free education – from nursery school to educational learningopportunities for senior citizens in old age. Furthermore, it means abolishing social disparities in the educational system – differences created by that are coming from the system itself. DIE LINKE advocates a common school from first grade until the final class of secondary school, based on the model used in theof Scandinavian countries. We already implemented that model in a pilot project, in the region of Berlin. In the field of higher education, we demand a broad reform of BAföG (student loans in Germany) which not only increases the standard rates, but also makes themit independent fromof the earnings of the students’ parents – and changes it into grants, instead of loans.

The Folk High Schools constitutes as an important pillar in lifelong learning and have to be endowed with substantial financial means in order to maketo not make any increasingaugmentation of the course fees a thing of thenecessary past any more.

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

Education still plays a minor role in EU-policy making. The reason for that can be found in the inner-state distribution of competences within the member states. The EU-focus, when it comes to education, is mainly on harmonisation processes for the mutual validation of higher education diplomas – and on increasing the mobility of students in the context of the Bologna process. Regarding offers of non-formal education within adult education, the mutual validation of certificates and acquired competences are of utmost importance. People that use offers of further education in member states needs to know that their certificate will be validated anywhere within the EU. This is, in our opinion, a requirement for the free movement of workers within the union.

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

Stakeholders in adult education have different experiences and competences. DIE LINKE advocates, that all people engaged in education applies a people-centric outlook, recognising the needs of the individual learner. For us, this is crucial for a living democracy. For this reason, non-governmental actors need to be able to access all processes where laws and reforms are made. This participation has to go beyond the right to participate in hearings of e.g. legislative processes of the federal state and the regions. We advocate an equal inclusion of different interests and positions, before and during the formulation of reform goals or draft laws.

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

An EU-wide campaign for strengthening adult education seems reasonable to us, especially if the term “lifelong learning” is to appear outside of "Sunday sermons" from politicians. From the perspective of DIE LINKE, such a campaign should aim for an understanding of education and work based on a will to increase and build emancipation. The idea that all adult persons can use a certain amount of “education years/leave” in the course of their lives should be given some thought. Like parental leave, they should be financed by the state, and returning to one's original job should be guaranteed accordingly.