This page aims to update you on policy work and policy developments in the EU that relate to the field of Adult Education.
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In 2016 the European Council issued a Recommendation entitled ‘Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults’ in response to the fact that 70 million Europeans struggle with basic reading and writing, calculation and using digital tools in everyday life.
The Recommendation aims to help adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and/or acquire a broader set of skills by progressing towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent (level 3 or 4 in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) depending on national circumstances).
It is proposing that this is done by focusing on a three step approach to accessing ‘upskilling pathways’ which involves;
Step 1 – Skills assessment to help adults identify their existing skills and their skills needs to plan a tailored offer of learning;
Step 2 – Learning Offer, whereby the adult will receive an offer of education and training that meets their skills needs, and
Step 3- Validation and Recognition, whereby one can have the opportunity to have their skills validated and recognised. The work of progressing through these steps will be based on effective outreach, guidance and support.
The wider benefits of learning and a meaningful upskilling pathway
While the Recommendation places emphasis on the importance of upskilling for employment, it also takes into account the wider benefits of learning and the importance of personalised opportunities for adults returning to learning. It points to the implications of active labour market policies which aim to progress unemployed people into employment as fast as possible, rather than providing personalised learning opportunities which realise more sustainable long term outcomes for adult learners.
In this context, Upskilling Pathways considers the wider benefits of learning in terms of its impact on health, social inclusion and intergenerational poverty and education disadvantage. These considerations will be important to development of adult education policy in Member States that can fully support adult learners engage in an ‘upskilling pathway’ that is right for their needs and circumstances.
Upskilling Pathways raises important questions for national policy makers when designing progression pathways for adult learners. These questions include considerations of the barriers experienced by learners experiencing educational inequality, the type of support and outreach needed for these learners to access and engage in learning, the nature of that learning and how it is tailored in a meaningful way to address those who experience this inequality.
How will it happen?
Delivery on the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation aims to build on existing structures in Member States in cooperation with social partners, education and training provides and local and regional authorities. The European Commission is supporting Member States implementation of Upskilling Pathways through its range of European Programmes including Erasmus . The policy message of the Upskilling Pathways Recommendation has informed the Erasmus priorities for the Adult Education field. In this way Erasmus can support adult education organisations and staff development to address needs of adults returning to education. At a policy level, the EasI Programme is targeted specifically at public entities in member states in charge of policies and actions relating to the upskilling of adults. The European Commission publish centralised calls in relation to the EasI Programme.
Further information on Upskilling Pathways can be found here http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1224
As part of the Education and Training (ET 2020) Open Method of Coordination (OMC), the Commission and the Member States cooperate in the form of Working Groups (WGs). They bring together experts from across the EU Member States, stakeholders, social partners and international organisations. Each country nominates their experts, where civil society organisations working in adult education are chosen through an open selection process. These Working Groups are designed to address key challenges experienced by the member states in their education and training systems, as well as agreeing common priorities at European level.
What is the purpose of the Working Group?
The primary focus of the work is to look at furthering policy development through exchange of good practice and facilitating a better understanding of what policy approaches work in education. There are currently six Working Groups, which are both sector and issue-focused. These are WG’s are looking at the areas of Schools, Vocational Education and Training, Modernisation of Higher Education, Adult Learning, Digital Skills and Competences and Promoting Common Values and Inclusive Education. Of particular interest to the field of Adult Education is the Working Group on Adult Learning, however the cross cutting themes of digital skills and inclusive education are also of relevance.
Building on a history of European Cooperation in Adult Education
The Working Group on Adult Learning draws from more than twenty years of European Cooperation in the field of Adult Education. Its beginning was marked by the 1996 European Year of Lifelong Learning and evolved through key milestones of cooperation in the form of the Commission Communications; ‘It’s Never too late to learn’ (2006) and ‘It’s always a good time to learn’ (2007) and the Action Plan on Adult Learning (2008-2010). This ground work of cooperation between Member States shaped and provided for agreement on the common priorities to be addressed through the Open Method of Coordination. Since 2011, EU priorities have been informed by the Council Resolution on a renewed Agenda on Adult Learning (EAAL) which was renewed in 2015 as part of ET2020. The EAAL affirms that Adult Learning in all its forms, formal, informal, non-formal and for all purposes both in terms of upskilling and reskilling for employment but also as fundamental to social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development.
What is it working on now?
Currently, the main focus of the Adult Learning Working Group is to prepare policy guidance for Member States on how policy can promote a culture of career-long learning in the workplace. This work has encompassed an ‘Adult Skills Conference: Empowering Adults’ in 2016, Peer Learning Activity (PLA’s) on basic skills, medium levels skills, skills needs, and the formulation of policy guidance publication on workplace learning. This report is aimed at informing policy makers on how workplace learning can be facilitated and supported across the member states. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of workplace learning and will provide examples and analysis from these the PLA’s and other activities of the WG. https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/adult-learning-et-2020_en.pdf
Looking to the future the Adult Learning Working Group will be working to input to the post ET2020 strategic agenda. It will also focus on policy drivers which empower individuals to upskill, supporting the development of a learning culture in the workplace and supporting employers to stimulate skills development and re skilling with a view to providing policy recommendations and guidance.
For more information on the work of the Adult Learning Working Group and other Working Groups follow the link here http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/strategic-framework/expert-groups_en
What is the European Education Area?
The European Commission is developing initiatives to work towards a vision for a ‘European Education Area’ by 2025. This vision was presented at the EU Head of State summit in Gothenburg in November 2017 and positioned education as part of the solution to facilitate people accessing better jobs and responding to the economy’s skills needs. It also pointed to the potential of education, training, youth and culture to support European project. The goal of the European Education Area is to ensure that learning, studying and doing research will not be hampered by borders creating a genuine ‘European learning space’. It will incorporate learners of all age groups and background including early childhood education and care, school education, vocational education, adult education and higher education.
While the primary responsibility for education and culture policies lies with the member states, it is acknowledged that the European Union has played a complementary role which is particularly evident through European cooperation supported through programmes like Erasmus . The Commission as part of its initiatives to develop a European Education Area will include a strengthening of the role of the Erasmus programme and its successor programme to deliver on these objectives.
[A fact sheet on the European Education Area can be found here https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/factsheet-education-eea-may2018-en.pdf ]
Common values, inclusive education and the European dimension
Recent initiatives on the European Education area spotlight on the broader dimension and purpose of education to an understanding of common values, supporting the European unity, an awareness of the value of the European project and what it means to be European. Two policy documents, both issued on the 22nd May 2018, underpin this vision; these are the ‘Council Recommendation on promoting common values, inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching’ and the Commission Communication on ‘Building a stronger Europe: the role of youth, education and culture policies’.
The Council Recommendation outlines how the EU is based on common values of and principles of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights including those of minorities. Acknowledging the current challenges of the EU including of populism, xenophobia, discrimination and extremism, it emphasises how the EU succeeded in bringing countries together to enable Europe’s longest period of peace. It outlines the lack of awareness of the origins of the EU and the pivotal role of education in promoting these common values and knowledge of the value of the European Project which supports understanding and cooperation among Member states.
For more information on this recommendation check out the fact sheet https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/factsheet-common-values-inclusive-education-european-dimension-of-teaching.pdf
The Commission Communication on ‘Building a stronger Europe: the role of youth, education and culture policies’ places focus on youth, culture and education policies and how they can plan an important role in the European project. It sets out how the European Council and the European Commission will undertake joint work towards the European Education Area. This will include the introduction of a European Student card, mutual recognition of higher education and school leaving qualifications, enhanced language learning and the support for Member States in realising inclusive lifelong learning based and innovation driven education and training systems.