Interview with European representative Doris Pack, Member of European Parliament.
By Ulrika Engler, ÌNFOnet
At the beginning of the year, the EU set the new support programme for lifelong learning on its way. Have you, as a correspondent, been able to achieve what you planned?
First of all, we must make it clear that before 1994 there was no support for adult education at all. At that time, the EU was purely economically oriented; there was no place for educational subjects. Then there were also no Austrians, Finns or Swedes who could have helped us. Parliament was not in favour of taking up adult education either. In 1994, the Socrates-I- program was published, but it did not include adult education. I then sneaked it in through the back door. Then came Socrates II, in which Grundtvig was provided for adult education. What is new in the current situation is that we have gathered all education programmes together in one programme, "Lifelong Learning". We in Parliament have ensured that instead of the three percent of the total budget originally planned, Grundtvig now has four percent. For the first time, the Commission has put out its own communication on adult education, which means a real shift in thinking. Adult education is now being taken more seriously than ever before.
What are your concerns and aims for adult education in Europe?
It cannot be assumed that all adults think highly of the EU, so we can pass this important good initiative on to our offspring. We must ensure that everybody learns tolerance and also languages in order to understand the other cultures better. In all programmes we want to keep bringing up the notion of Europe, which is so important that we cannot let it slide. And to this end we need adult education.
Often the emphasis is only on professional training. Do you think this is right?
Of course we must give people today the opportunity of pursuing a new path later in life. But lifelong learning does not just mean learning for a career. The problem and the task is for us to convey the spirit of the European Union. If we do not convey it to adults, we will lose this spirit. And this is more than purely career-oriented education.
An action plan has been announced in the new EU communication. What is planned there?
I am in very close contact with the Commission where the action plan has just been written. This action plan is to be brought out in the summer - they intend to really hurry it along now. They have decided to organise hearings in order to bring professionals from adult education together in five European locations. I think they are doing the right thing because the good ideas that many adult educators have can be combined at these conferences and brought together in a new programme. Other political spheres, such as unemployability or the agricultural sector, are also to be looked at in order to see where adult education is doing well. This is also to be worked through and brought to light.
What prospects do you see for adult education?
I really wish that adult education could enjoy the status that is would have according to the action plan. It should, and must, show how wonderful Europe is, that Europe is a positive common destiny and should not be talked about as if it is dead. I think it would be much more useful not to blow the money on expensive campaigns and events, as is happening now with the Directorate General under Wallström, but to spend it on continuous educational work.
What role do you see political education having?
It should have great significance, as many people just don´t have any time to educate themselves politically. EU policy is complicated, many people do not find it very accessible and have no opportunity to understand it. Through the polls on the European Constitution we have seen how important political education on Europe is.
Doris Pack has been a European representative (EVP/ED party) since July 1989 and works as a correspondent for EU education programs. She is also President of the Saarland Adult Education Association.