The European Union has presented a broad based concept of lifelong learning. Also the EU no longer proposes co-financing by participants as a rule. This is the result of the comments from Denmark during the official hearing process of the draft.
Before publishing the Communication on Adult Learning, the Commission sent the draft for hearing in member countries. The Danish Ministry of Education composed a sounding board with the task of commenting the draft and proposing necessary changes.
The two main proposals from Denmark concerned the definition of life long learning and the question of co-financing. Both amendments were put to the Danish sounding board by the representative of Danish Adult Education Association (DAEA).
Not necessarily systematic
For Denmark and especially for the non-formal sector of adult education it was important that the EU will not act on the basis of too narrow a conception of learning and education. That is why the DAEA were not very satisfied with the Commission´s draft definition of life learning.
According to the draft lifelong learning is "systematic learning undertaken by adults who return to learning after having left initial education and training".
In it´s comments the Danish sounding board wrote that this definition "might mistakenly be understood as if learning only takes place in systematically organized education and training."
Furthermore the board wrote: "That would conflict with the wider understanding of lifelong and lifewide learning also embracing non formal and informal learning."
In the final Communication the Danish view was accepted, and the phrase ended up like this: "Definitions of adult learning vary, but for the purpose of this Communication it is defined as all forms of learning undertaken by adults after having left initial education and training,…"
The controversial word "systematic" has been substituted by the word "all".
Removal of a barrier
In another paragraph of the draft the Commission proposed this: "Given the considerable private returns by adult learning, co-financing should be the rule."
Commenting on this the Danish sounding board wrote: "It is of societal interest to encourage the lower skilled to participate in lifelong learning. For the lowest skilled, paying for adult learning is often a huge barrier, as the lowest skilled are the least likely to be motivated for paying for their own education and training."
Also this view was adopted by the Commission, and the quoted phrase did not appear in the final text.
The social returns
Apart from these passages and a few minor points the Danish Adult Education Association was already very satisfied with the draft. And after the final Communication has been published, the chairman of DAEA, Per Paludan Hansen, says:
"We are very happy that the Commission listened to our objections and adopted our point of view."
Underlining the general support for the Communication, Per Paludan Hansen says:
"Real and reasonable enough the Commission stresses very much how adult education can help increase productivity and employment. But I think the other part is just as important."
He quotes this sentence about the benefits of adult education: "…, but also increased social returns in terms of improved civic participation, better health, lower incidence of criminality, and greater individual well-being and fulfilment."
A lever for the Third Sector
The graphs and tables at the end of the Communication show that Denmark is one of the more well-performing countries in this field.
"Nevertheless, even in Denmark we still need an expanded effort in adult education and more recognition of non-formal adult education.
We hope that this Communication will be part of the debate on political priorities in Denmark. The original Memorandum on Lifelong Learning did actually become a lever for our sector, and the Communication may well do the same," says the chairman of DAEA.
Michael Voss, INFOnet