Jeppe KofodJeppe Kofod, Social Democratic Party, Denmark

1. What does lifelong learning mean to you?

The labour market and the demands of the employers change all the time. So, it is important to establish a system that makes it possible for the individual to acquire new competencies that correspond to the demands of the labour market. For me as a social democrat it is the desire for learning all through life that must be the driving force in the educational system. The different sorts of education must motivate everybody to be wiser and to look for new knowledge the whole life – as well practical learning as theoretical. Education must be organised according to the wants and preconditions of the individual. Practical skills and social and creative competencies are the preconditions of each other. The ability to look for new knowledge, energy, curiosity, cooperation and respect for others must be in the forefront.

2. How will you support the promotion of adult education and lifelong learning if you are elected?

The on-going economic crisis has increased the need for an active employment policy. The high rate of unemployment must be brought down, and adult education can be a means for upgrading the personal skills for them to correspond to the demands of the labour market.

The challenge of the future will be to find enough competent employees for the welfare society. Increased global competition demands better qualifications. All hands and heads must be counted – and put into use as best as possibile. We must work to place Danish education at all levels among the best of the world. This must be done on the basis of the Danish educational tradition and an egalitarian welfare society and by creative and interdisciplinary cooperation that can make us able to adjust and turn new ideas into results.

3. In your opinion and experience, how can different disadvantaged groups (elderly, migrants etc.) be included in lifelong learning in order to support their social inclusion?

I think that education is paramount for having a good life and for being a part of the labour market. To me education is the strongest way to inclusion. But equal opportunities do not mean uniform education. We are different individuals, and many different kind of qualifications and competencies are needed. For that reason I think that education must be offered all through life.

4. What do you see as the role for non-formal adult education in helping to implement EU educational policy?

Around one million Danes (out of 5.6 million inhabitants) participate in “folkeoplysning” – non-formal adult education – because they like learning more. It is fantastic. However non-formal adult education must develop in order to make it relevant for more people and even more essential in the educational activities and the public debate. Non-formal adult education must be affordable so that personal economy does not become a barrier for participation. Non-formal adult education must be challenging and used actively to create a framework for debates in local society, preferably in partnerships with formal education, NGO’s and enterprises. A more targeted outreach towards the social groups with the least educational background must be made. In that way non-formal adult education can be a supplement to formal education. At the same time participation from migrants who do not know the Danish tradition of “folkeoplysning” must be strengthened. For all those reasons I think that non-formal adult education is an important element in implementing the educational policies of the EU.

5. How will you support the work of civil society actors in promoting adult education?

Acces to adult education, further education and non-formal adult education must be a right. Instead of blind alleys we must create access through credit rating on the basis of validation of real competencies and better guidance for adults. A large part of the adult population has a too little or outdated education. Bad experiences from schools make many people hesitant towards the educational system. For that reason the educational system must be strengthened also as a part of employment policies. It is the responsibility of society to offer free, good and accessible education with the possibility of grants, especially for the unemployed and the adults with outdated or no professional education.

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

Yes. To me education is the way to create cohesion and to communicate common values. The whole educational system must prepare children, youth and adults for participation, co-responsibility, tolerance and equality, and it must lay the foundation for a meeting between cultures. So, I think that education must have a high priority for all age groups.

Photo: socialdemokraterne.dk