ARALE conference

The ARALE Conference took place in Brussels on 2nd and 3rd of October 2013.

Senior adult education on the fringe of the fringe

“Adult education is on the fringe of the educational system, and adult education for seniors is on the fringe of the fringe, especially in some of the Eastern European countries.”

“In Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia older people are excluded from lifelong learning. Because of the general poverty, it is considered a luxury.”

That is how Gabriela Körting from the University of Ulm in Germany explained some of the challenges of Danube Seniors’ Universities. It is an informal educational network that promotes lifelong learning, social participation of older persons and intergenerational dialogue in the Danube Region.

The main aim of the network is to offer the possibility for older people to stay informed, acquire new knowledge and open new possibilities of meaningful, socially relevant activities through academic continuing education. The tool for accomplishing this is the model of “Seasons Academies” which the University of Ulm had provided twice a year since 1992.

Linking universities and NGO’s

The partners succeeded in involving more than 300 participants from the three Eastern European countries in the pilot project. The older participants were strongly motivated, and the pilot event was generally well accepted by them.

According to Gabriela Körting, key to the good results was the tandem of partners. Both in Serbia and Romania one university cooperated with one or two NGO’s, and in Bulgaria such tandem were established in two cities. The NGO’s were:

  • The association “Universities of the third age” and National Foundation for Human Aging of Serbia
  • Institute for Adult Education and Window Association of Romania
  • The Pensioners‘ Union 2004 and the Pensioners’ Association of Bulgaria
Sustainable results

While many projects and networks often result only in temporary results, Gabriela Körting was happy to tell about a number of sustainable results of DASUN. For example the University of Ruse, Bulgaria agreed to create a Third Age Education Center as a part of the University academic structure.

Also, the University of Belgrade and the University of Arts in Belgrade have organised "Academic Weeks" for older adults that included lectures and interactive workshops, presentations and exhibitions on topics related to adult learning, aging and third age. In Romania, the University of Craiova and the relevant NGOs are working on developing a national network focusing on seniors’ education and on the subject of geragogy, a theory on teaching the elderly.”