Nadja HirschNadja Hirsch, Freie Demokratische Partei / ALDE, Germany

Currently an MEP.

1. What does lifelong learning mean to you?

Lifelong learning is a permanent process of acquisition and learning. It takes place in different surroundings. In formal education – school, professional training and university – learning is clearly at the centre, and the actual goal. But other situations – through which we learn something new – also arise in everyday work, in our contact with other people and in the use of technologies and transport. Learning, however, is not a mere obligatory event – nor an automatism. Learning has to be practiced, actively and pro-actively. In order to keep up with the changes and the progress in society, technology, economy and research – people have to further educate themselves and acquire new knowledge in order to fully participate in society and maintain a high level of performance. Mainly adults and elderly people, who are not included in formal educational processes any more, have to learn “actively” – not least to stimulate themselves mentally and in order to keep fit. It is important to create a learning environment – and educational offers – for people of every age and for different learning situations, be it through the government, through further education offers by the employer or through personal activities in further education. The key to success in learning, however, is and remains "the fun factor".

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

In the latest legislative period, the FDP intensively advocated measures for raising the value of higher education and further education. A high level of education and the will to learn are not only basic requirements to enter the job market, but also vital for guaranteeing further employment and employability. For this reason, it is the task of employers to offer their employees good education and training – because therein lies the future success of the whole enterprise. Public education institutes and private initiatives constitute a basic pillar for the education of the population. The key is – and we liberals always emphasise this point – that offers in education correspond with the demand of the labour market. Simply put; it is important that the spheres of education and work better interlock.

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?

Both the European Social Fund and the new Erasmus+ program aim for easier access to the labour market, for fostering social integration and for strengthening mobility. Migrants and elderly people get support for participating in further education offers – for example to improve their language or ICT skills. We liberals have always promoted the European Social Fund (ESF) as well as the new program, Erasmus+ – because we are convinced that education is the key to employment and integration.

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

The EU has defined concrete goals for education, in the EU2020 strategy. Accordingly, the rate of early school leavers should be lowered to below 10 percent and the rate of those with a university diploma or a similar certificate should be raised to 40 percent. Especially, with the EU-wide – but on the national level very differently shaped – phenomenon of early school leavers in mind, non-formal education plays a big role. Through non-formal education, it is possible to transfer important knowledge and skills outside of the formal education system, thus guaranteeing these people better employability. The bridging function of non-formal education is also of big importance in the alphabetisation of adults and for the transfer of skills for those who did not have any access, or limited access to education because of their background.

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

Given the demographic change and the increasing pressure on the pension systems in the member states, we have to take care so that older people can stay at their jobs longer. They are the know-how carriers in enterprises and organisations. That is why younger people can learn a lot from them. We need to give them the chance to stay in the labour market. For this reason it is important, within the framework of the ESF, to qualify elderly people, e.g. to enable them to enhance their ICT skills. In a rapidly growing world, this is a central element. A European Flagship Campaign could raise awareness for further education and seminars, which enable elderly people to use electronic communication tools, digital photography, online shopping or graphic programs.