The Swedish formal adult education has seen their state support levels reduced by the new conservative government in spite of election promises to spend on education.
In an odd twist non-formal learning organisations for adults in Sweden sees their funding increase. The former socialistic government proposed the decision just before the election that they lost, and the present government has approved. Within three years the non-formal learning institutions have to prove that they can perform a good work with four aims and seven different fields. The development of democratic society is the main goal. The indicators, what exactly they should be good at, is for the field itself to define. Last week around 350 people from Swedish non-formal learning organisations gathered in Nynäshamn for a conference arranged by the Swedish National Council of Adult Education to learn and discuss how to develop quality assurance, something that is new for most of them.
The Swedish minister of integration and gender equality, Nyamko Sabuni was guest at the conference and was interviewed on stage: What can the Swedish non-formal education do for promoting diversity and gender equality? The Swedish non-formal learning movement have been and continue to be crucial for the NGO sector. The learning institutions can be spokesmen for people who have difficulties to be heard, among them people with foreign backgrounds, she said. She went on to suggest non formal adult education should make an effort to reach excluded groups and offer these groups what they want and need. This might include a platform for supporting the groups, language and democratic skills.
Empowerment is thus important for our minister. Non-formal education should also provide training for non-profit-making organisations that want to engage in the public service sector, she outlined. (Due to the present government policy the public service in Sweden is now for sale to companies and non-profit-making organisations).
People who speak minority languages will be needed in the public service e.g. in elderly care. Ethnic organisations will thus play a more important role in the future and be more involved in the adult non-formal adult education, Nyamko Sabuni said. But to the question if democracy means participant power the minister answered that the participants should be offered influence, not power. Power should be with the provider.
Nyamko Sabuni, who herself is born in an African country, concluded that the Swedish word for non-formal adult education, education for people, suits her well, especially if it means that people get access to knowledge to be able to develop more knowledge.
If Swedish non-formal adult education can deal with keeping its traditional freedom and at the same time be useful for the society, including new ethnic groups, it will surely survive into the rapid changing future.
Ingegerd Akselsson Le Douaron