Martina Michels, DIE LINKE, Germany

1. What does lifelong learning mean to you?

DIE LINKE regards lifelong learning as an emancipatory process which has to be recognized as an individual right. Lifelong learning enables people from all age groups to participate and to be included in society.

Learning does not end with the first job und should be open to all people, independent of their individual social status and beyond the economic usability. At the moment, our education system is rather interested in the economic usability and less in a broad and comprehensive spectrum of education. The financial cuts in adult education show that as well.

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

In the current legislation period, I have been vice-president in the Committee for Culture and Education at the European Parliament. In this function, I am as a contact person at the disposal of the various civil society organisations in education and culture. DIE LINKE has contributed to the design of the action programme Erasmus+ which includes a part of European adult education, and it has emphasized EAEA’s focus on informal education.

In case of my re-election, I will advocate a future-oriented education and culture policy that has to be based on a good financial fundament in the coming legislation period.

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

In general, different groups have to be made specific topics. Certainly many citizens in the EU do not know that 20 percent of the adult population in the EU are functional analphabets. Based on my experience at the European Parliament, it is of utmost importance to simplify the access to programmes such as Erasmus+ or programmes that are developed with the Structural and Regional Funds in the member states. Most of the time, there are deficits in the access. We have also experienced that the website of the European Commission is really difficult to understand. The topic “language” is also of major importance. Often, application forms can be found only in English, and the used language is too difficult. This could be a first step [to use an easier language].

The second step should be, in my opinion, a rethinking of European education policy. We face a marketisation/commodification of education that we as the LINKE oppose.

Learning does not end with the first job. We want to strengthen further education and lifelong learning as a public task and an individual right. We have to make it clear to companies that they have the responsibility for the continuing education of their employees. At the same time, we need extensive public offers which are accessible for free and which also include liberal, cultural and political education.

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

Like already mentioned, DIE LINKE has advocated this part of informal learning in the design of Erasmus+. We still demand an expansion of informal learning independently of the formal education system. Informal education is, in our opinion, crucial for an emancipatory education process and gets less and less attention in European education programmes. The tendency to favour formal education over informal education – which can also be observed in the European context – is strongly opposed by DIE LINKE. We see our task in sustaining informal education in European education policy and in expanding this form of education to all age groups.

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

Civil society organisations in adult education have to stay important contact partners, especially in the design of the different programmes. DIE LINKE at the European Parliament tries to involve these organisations and invites on a regular basis the representatives of the organisations to hearings of the Committees. Furthermore, we organize regular events with various civil society organisations, at which we want to provide a platform and to foster a dialogue.

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

I would support a Europe-wide campaign for adult education. The significance of adult education in European education policy has to be emphasised and expanded in the future. This demands for the provision of sufficient financial means. The need for that is reflected e.g. in the budget allocation in the new Erasmus+ programme: 43 percent of financial means are provided for higher education (student exchange), 22 percent for vocational training and education, and 15 percent for school education – of 14,7 bn Euros. The budget for adult education comprises only 5 percent of the overall budget. We think that this is inadequate.