Sabine VerheyenSabine Verheyen, Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, Germany

Currently an MEP.

1. What does lifelong learning mean to you?

The term "Lifelong learning" comprises all the different kinds of learning that a person might experience during his or her lifetime. Everything that builds knowledge and creates new qualifications and competences are included here. The learning might take place in your personal life, in civic endeavours, in your social commitments and in the workplace. Again, with lifelong learning, we mean all kinds of learning, in all phases of life – i.e. from childhood to old age. The European Commission shares this definition.

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

Adult education and lifelong learning are not only important for the personal development of people and their social and political/civic participation, but also for keeping their employability high in a world of constant change. For this reason, the CDU supports the renewed European Agenda for Adult Education, which was passed in 2011 by the Council of Ministers for Education. The agenda drafts guidelines for cooperation up to and including 2020. The central concern in the agenda is the issue of raising participation in adult education to at least 15 percent, until 2020. At present, only 9.3 percent of all adults in the EU participate in adult education. In comparison, the participation rate for further education, in Germany, is 49 percent. Next to the agenda, I and the whole CDU at the European Parliament support the new EU program Erasmus+. The budget for the program, currently at 14.8 billion Euros, will also support transnational measures in adult education, until 2020. This includes mobility projects – in order to enable experience exchanges for adult education staff.

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?

In order to maintain the employability of people in Germany, the CDU will strengthen the principles of lifelong learning and initiate an “alliance for education and further education”, together with the social partners and the regions. In our opinion, it is the responsibility of enterprises, especially, to strengthen their efforts to achieve age- and ageing-adequate work environments and staff management that is sensitive to various demographics. We will support them with the initiative “New quality of the job” (INQA) and with continued initiatives that aim to create employment for people that are over 50 years old.

With growing demand to further individual qualifications, we will make better use of existing subventions, within the framework for the promotion of education (BAföG, AFBG, SGB III). We will also look at the active labour market policy – and increase it where necessary – within the framework for the ESF programme “qualification of migrants in the context of the validation law”. In our struggle against the lack of human capital – and for more social participation – we want to further develop the alphabetisation strategy of the federal state and the regions. We want to create a "decade of alphabetisation" and expand the subvention system.

Moreover, we support the demography endeavour “Every age counts” (Jedes Alter zählt), by the federal government – led by the CDU. Next to a culture of working longer, we want to support the mental fitness and the curiosity of elderly people, after the end of their working lives. Therefore, we need perfectly adapted programmes – to accompany the "biographical learning process". We can already see this in the program “Local learning” (Lernen vor Ort).

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

The new political strategy “Europe 2020”, which was proposed by the European Commission, should contribute to employment, productivity and social coherence in Europe. At the same time, the EU wants to accompany the economic growth – which is visible since 2010 – with reforms created to secure a sustainable development for the upcoming decade. Against this background, non-formal and informal learning, especially for underprivileged and unemployed people – or for people at the brink of unemployment – is very important. Through the validation of their participation in non-formal education, their access to the job market is improved. Qualified employees, at the same time, foster growth and further employment across Europe. For this reason, non-formal adult education has a facilitating function within the EU market – in the sense of securing economic growth.

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

Through the “structured dialogue” (SD) with civil society, the European Commission ensures the participation of non-governmental stakeholders in concrete issues. This instrument for exerting influence should be actively used by civil society, in order to provide input. Furthermore, the CDU advocates that the state and the regions in Germany involve non-governmental actors even more in the flow of information and communication – in the drafting of statements and position papers on adult education on the EU level. At the same time, the results of discussions by civil society stakeholders should meet with greater response in EU documents.

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

The CDU refuses an expansion of the common competences in the field of education. Articles 165 and 166 of the Treaty of the functioning of the European Union (AEUV) anchors a prohibition of harmonisation in education. We want to hold on to that. Nevertheless, the CDU supports actions which advance the reduction of mobility barriers and fosters free movement of workers. For this to become reality, we require easier transferability of educational achievements, validation of qualifications according to the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQR) and transnational projects in adult education.

As to the issue of a “European Flagship campaign”; in order to push adult education and lifelong learning to new levels – the question is to what level and what would be achieved by such an endeavour? After all, the conditions under which adult education is practiced in every EU country – as well as the participation rates – are very different. In no case could such a campaign compensate a lack of national commitment.