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Adult educators and researchers under quarantine

- Redaktion Deuts...
Sprog: EN
Document available also in: HR DE

Rheinpromenade (© Alexandra Ioannidou)

Rheinpromenade (© Alexandra Ioannidou)


The effects of the Covid-19 disease outbreak are highly visible all over the world. Despite the rigorous measures taken in most countries and the tireless efforts of health professionals, the virus has already taken too many lives and it has changed the lives of all of us. The pandemic has revealed ignorant or incapable leadership, dysfunctional regimes, it has discredited authorities and made inequalities impossible to ignore. It made visible what goes unnoticed or is accepted in normal times. The virus has not been a great leveller. Its victims are more likely to be the older ones and the most vulnerable, people living in poverty, in confined spaces, in ghettos and refugee camps.

How are adult educators and researchers affected by lockdown measures?

It already seems clear that the effects of Covid-19 on employment have been highly asymmetric too. Effects differed by industry branch, ranging from fully essential sectors carrying on same as before (food production, utilities, and health), to fully non-essential activities being closed down (leisure, hotel and restaurants). Between those two extremes, the effects of the lockdown largely depended on whether the underlying activity lent itself to teleworking, and on the extent to which a job was effectively performed from home. Empirical evidence shows that the impact of lockdown measures and social distancing  falls disproportionately on vulnerable workforce groups, such as women, older employees, temporary workers, the self-employed, the low-skilled, and non-natives. It is (conservatively) estimated that about 45 million jobs in the EU-27 labour market, which makes 23% of total EU-27 employment, are faced with a very high risk of Covid-19 disruption, while another 22% of the workforce is also exposed to a considerable degree. On the contrary, permanent employees, the high-skilled and native workers are more likely to experience least disruption in employment and earnings. Even when able to keep their job and work from home, as many scientists can do, too many women were disadvantaged by the unequal distribution of time spent caring for children or doing other unpaid work.

And the adult educators? How are they coping with the effects of Covid-19 on their jobs? The answer largely depends on their occupational status. In Germany, for example, there are 700.000 people working as adult educators, trainers, coaches etc. for different adult education providers. More than 70 percent of employment contracts in adult education take the form of short term freelance work. Even if there are no available data at present, we assume from their occupational profile that adult educators might be facing a considerable risk of disruption in employment and earnings due to Covid-19.

And what are the challenges adult educators are facing beyond Germany and Europe? After all, the pandemic is global and its effects not only for Europe dramatic. With 185 countries, the virus has been spread to almost the entire world. Developing countries are with a two-month delay affected, the risk of infection is three times higher in developing countries than in Europe. The WHO expects up to 10 million infected in the next three to six months. Millions of people in these countries are left without work, income or resources due to the collapse of global supply chains. Governments there cannot spend enormous sums of money to support family incomes and help businesses survive – in contrary to Europe.

And how are adult education researchers doing in the midst of the corona crisis? How are they coping in their home offices and with the completely new everyday life? Most of us belong to the privileged ones (sick leave is not an impossible luxury, health care is universal due to well-developed welfare state provisions, telework is possible) and yet, the virus has affected us in an unprecedented way. The effects on our work may not be devastating, apart from the fact that we will presumably not be writing masterpieces during lockdown.

We don´t know what are the implications of the pandemic for adult education and learning. But we can pose questions worthy of being investigated. What are the effects of the lockdown on providers of adult education and training? What kind of disruptions in employment have adult educators and trainers experienced during lockdown measures? What are the effects of the lockdown on participation in adult learning? Which groups are (no longer) reached? Do people have more time for learning under lockdown conditions? Do more people recognize the importance of scientific evidence for effective policy action under conditions of uncertainty? Does lifelong learning remain one of the few known remedies to the disruptions brought about by economic change, climate change or fake news? Can adult learning contribute to mitigate the dramatic consequences of the disease outbreak in our lives? What policy interventions has the pandemic provoked in the field of adult learning?

We may found ourselves wondering about all that we really (don´t) know.

About the Author:

Alexandra Ioannidou is research staff at DIE – Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning, Germany, Secretary and Board member of the European Society for Research of the Education of Adults (ESREA).


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