Discussion Details

EPALE Discussion on the Future of Skills

Join us to share your views on what the future of basic skills should look like!

In the upcoming EPALE Discussion to be held on 14 December, co-organised by EBSN, we are inviting you to reflect on the future of skills.

A streamed panel of experts will open the discussion between 10:00-10:30 CET.

Graciela Sbertoli, Secretary General of EBSN and a Representative on behalf of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU will be invited to share their reflections on the themes raised above. The discussion is moderated by Tamás Harangozó, from EBSN.

After the live stream, the written discussion will go on on this page until 16:00 CET!

Join us to share your views on what the future of basic skills should look like!

Comments are already open so you can start sharing your thoughts and suggestions.

Adult Learning and Education in Europe is facing new challenges. ALE stakeholders are looking into future directions through which Adult Learning can respond to the changes around us.

Slovenian Presidency and the future of Adult Learning

Slovenia holds the Presidency from July to December 2021, and the Slovenian slogan is:

Together. Resilient. Europe.

At the two-day conference titled Adult education as a resilient response to future challenges, ”European representatives from the fields of adult education, labour and economy and representatives of EU member states, UNESCO and the European Commission called for an urgent increase in the number of participants enrolled in adult education, for the establishment of a flexible lifelong learning system, and for the active promotion of training courses providing the right competences and skills” (Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021).

The Declaration on Adult Learning and Education by 2030 in the European Union (DeALE) concludes discussions of the conference and proposes certain priorities with highlighting the importance of lifelong learning, adult competences, vocational and technical education and work-based learning, including apprenticeships. The Declaration is regarded as “a professional commitment and advocacy action of ALE to complement the upcoming policy document (New European Agenda for Adult Learning 2030)” (DeALE).

EBSN’s Declaration for The future of basic skills policy

EBSN’s hybrid conference in Valletta, Malta has addressed the future of basic skills with its thematic focus i.e. Innovation for Resilience – New Approaches to Basic Skills Provision in the Post-COVID Era! Ms Alison Crabb, Head of Skills Agenda Unit in DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, gave an interesting talk on the upcoming Agenda that confirms the relevance of Upskilling Pathways, promotes green and digital transitions through the encouragement of whole-of government strategies. The EBSN Valletta Declaration endorsed by all conference participants also emphasises these points, among others.

Comments are already open so you can start sharing your thoughts and suggestions!

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Dear all,

Just came across a report by Coursera relevant to this discussion - on the most demanded skills in 2022, based on data drawn from Coursera’s 92 million learners, 2,000 business customers, 3,000
higher education institutions, and 230 government entities. So, the results are the following:

1. Digital skills (1. Product Design, 2. Plotting Data, 3. User Experience Design, 4. Statistical Visualisation, 5. Security Strategy, 6. Cloud Infrastructure, 7.Supply Chain Systems, 8. Social Media, 9. Operations Management, 10. Business Process Management).

2. Human Skills (soft skills) (1. communication, 2. Change Managemement, 3. Professional Development, 4. Storytelling, 5. Planning, 6. Influencing, 7. Decision Making, 8. Problem Solving, 9. People Development, 10. Human Resources).

I believe this very well illustrates the demands for future skills. The full report is available at this link.

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Dear all,

Thanks a lot for all your input today!

As previously announced, the moderation of this discussion will end at 4 pm CET. The discussion area will still be open for some time and you are encouraged to continue your contributions, and share links and ideas with your colleagues.

Thanks again, on behalf of EPALE and EBSN.


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This has been a very interesting discussion, thank you for all your contributions. The moderation, as Graciela mentioned, is over at 16:00 CET. 

However, you are more than welcome to post after this time, respond to earlier comments and share any relevant materials in this page!

Again, thank you all for your participation!


Best wishes,


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Im a digital andragoug, and mom of five. A have more experience, how we can handle this digital generation.

For example, they use video games very often.4 of my kids going to be adult,they have degrees, professions, and more experiences in workforce, as a 20's young adults. They speaks foreing languages, and they volounters in more project. 

 This is the reason, why Im so interested for this generation. 

Im sure, the video gaming can teaches a wiede range of skills from working with a team , to understandig complex sets of intstrucions that are highly desirable to business owners.

 Has anybody, who has same experience?


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Thank you for this, Hajnalka!

At the EBSN, we are also interested in gamification, but as a tool to teach basic skills to adults. And we would also be interested in how to teach the parents of the young generation how to cope with this completely new paradigm!

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Thanks for this feedback,Graciela


 How can we follow the discoussion about this topic? 

I have more and more experience and idea about this:), and I need a supportive team to follow this work!


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Gamification is very important in today's education as outlined in the above posts.  Future generations will be more oriented to explore these learning scenarios where they will have to the opportunity to nurture important skills and competences in an environment suitable for their needs.  This is will also have an impact on curricular design and implementation.

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Patiesi atbalstu visas prasmes par kurām rakstīts un runāts šajā diskusijā- digitālās, valodu, matemātikas u.c. Noteikti ir jāsaprot atšķirības procesos kā mācās bērni un kā pieaugušie. Visvienkāršākā atšķirība ir tā, ka pieaugušos nevar mācīt, viņi mācās paši, ja vien ir radīta atbilstoša vide un apstākļi. Tomēr ikdienā, strādājot ar pieaugušajiem, arī ļoti izglītotiem, profesionāli veiksmīgiem utt., esmu sapratusi, ka nereti nav pamata prasmes tādās jomās, kā konfliktu risināšana, prasme klausīties, prasme saprast un vadīt savas emocijas utt. Atceramies par to, jo mēs tomēr gribam ne tikai profesionāli veiksmīgus, bet arī ar dzīvi apmierinātus cilvēkus. Jebkurā vecumā.

Paldies par iespēju šajās diskusijās uzlabot angļu valodas prasmes, jo ikdienā tas vairs neizdodas.



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Thank you for your input, Dzintra!

I noticed you wrote (if the translation was good enough) that "adults cannot be taught, they learn by themselves". I tend to agree, in the sense that adults need to see the relevance of what they are working with, and the teacher should concentrate on facilitating a learning process which is directed by the adult learner. On the other hand, I think that this kind of approach works also very well with children! :-) As for the skills you mention, which mostly belong to the emotional sphere - they are indeed very difficult to teach! All we can do as teachers, I guess, is facilitate a process in which the adult becomes aware of the challenges they face. Interesting issue!

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Hello everyone. What do you think about media literacy?  It is about ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they're sending...for example new social media a their content (viral videos, text messages, memes, TikTok videos, podcasts, videocasts, ...)

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Thank you, Peter for your comment! Media literacy I think is a very relevant and timely subject to address in adult learning. We hardly grasped all effects of social media on our thinking, and its influence on our decision making. It would be interesting to gather curricula addressing media literacy.

EPALE has published an OER on news literacy lately: OER: News literacy - Why is news literacy education for adults important right now?  

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I agree and thank you for the link, too! I"m, as a "digital andragoug" usually teach parents and educators, how they can handle the digital generation changed habits. How they can use gamification and any other new trend for raising kids and teach them.

 I often help to parents ("digital parents"), how they can help to them kids to fight with more and more emotional and knowlidge challange in this area, in digital world. Can we plan a new curriculum about it together, whats your opinion? 


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What an interesting idea. Yes, indeed, we should be able to set up a framework containing learning outcomes, so that different learning locations can organize the course in a way that is relevant to them. Very interesting approach! 

Anybody who has examples of this approach in practice?

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This is an important topic to discuss.  We currently have parents and children using common platforms all the time.  Pre-social media era a parent was always able to guide his children in their upbringing but now the situation is totally different.  Media literacy plays an important in today's life but we have parents who are not informed enough to guide their children while on the other hand the latter are learning from their own experience.  So yes we need a framework in this sense.

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Basic skills (also for adults) are the basis for developing other (vocational, digital, green) skills that had to be part of lifelong learning. It is important that all stakeholders participate in these processes with the support of the state and that these are not project activities, but part of everyday life.

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I think this needs to be a natural scaffolding process where adult learners need to embark on an education journey to adjourn themselves in the outlined areas.  It is really challenging to implement but during the past months we have seen how current trends evolved due to the current situation.  

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I agree that in the first stages (especially in the context of formal education) learning is more strongly guided - there is a certain content, a certain plan. Attempts have been made to introduce competency education and project-based learning, but here too there is at least partial control over the learning process. Adults on the other hand usually manage learning themselves by choosing professional development or non-formal education courses, sometimes also by acquiring skills in work-based environment. The ability to "learn to learn" really plays a huge role at the same being aware of how many things and processes we try to balance and do on a daily basis. It is constant change, adjustment, and juggling with countless things at the same time. Do we really do it effectively while remembering to take care of ourselves?

With regard to future skills, balance is important: as long as the level of acquisition of certain key skills in society is low and needs to be focused, social skills must not be forgotten. Admittedly, at least for the time being, we have become a more virtual society than we were 2 years ago (do we really communicate in the same way, do we immediately perceive and understand everything if this is only on virtual meeting call or email form? Probably not). It is necessary to be able to adapt, to be able to analyze and select valuable resources within a huge amount of information.

More and more often soft skills and ability to adapt to changes quite fast are being evaluated in selection of employees, by implicitly stating that at least part of the basic technical skills can be acquired in work-based training if the candidate does not have them. All that remains is the uncertainty as to which of the future skills is to be considered a priority and how to evaluate what and how to learn.

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Thank you for your interesting approach to the issue, Inguna. I think the answer is yes, we can juggle everything - if by "everything" you mean everything we need to address more or less at once: personal growth, family life, and work. As to which skills will get priority in the future, I hope we continue addressing a vast range of skills. Adults are a very heterogeneous group and their needs are very varied. On the other hand, what we can focus on is which skills are so basic, so important for any kind of further development, that governments need to be solidly committed to ensuring that all adults have access to them. That is why recent European policy documents emphasize the importance of basic skills.

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Inguna, thank you for your comment. As Graciela suggests, there is vast capacity in human beings and we generally can potentially manage in work, family life well. In COVID times however it could be more of a rush to survive and everything is pushed a bit to the edge sometimes. To help adults juggle efficiently with work, self- and professional development, we need good career and/or learner guidance and counseling services where adult can make informed decisions on what course to choose, how much times should they invest in their upskilling through a series of reflective dialogues. Juggling can also be supported if learning and CPD gets incentivised by employers, government policies, bursaries etc. 

In all these perspective, however, we should not forget that we are human beings who are placed in their societal ecosystem, and who are sensitive to change, and needs time to adapt. There is a limit to adaptability and too much pressure can have counter effects. Making policy changes inclusive relies a great deal on the extent we take this into account too. 

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Very good points, Ilze, thank you! Indeed, helping the learner create a habit of self-evaluation, so that they recognize how far they have come in an intended path, is an excellent approach. Having a framework of indicators for different levels in the skill they are learning is an important tool in this context. Enabling learners to create individual learning paths which they choose themselves and can personally commit to, is a major factor in learning success!

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These are all interesting points.  Adult learners must undergo a self-reflective process to plan their learning journey.  They must have access to broad and specific indicators to guide them in the process.  Apart from outlining their strengths this will also highlight the areas they need to improve in.  

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I think it is very important that students, in our case, adult students, see the results, before they start there journey. That they get the opportunity and help needed to compare the situation as it is with them today and how it will be after the student have gone through his learning phase.  It is very important for the student to see the benefits of improving and developing.

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In the European Union documents mathematical competence is recognized as one of the most important competencies that people need to achieve their personal fulfilment, to be actively involved in civic and social life, and to successfully develop their professional careers. Mathematics has a decisive role in education, forming systemic thinking, form the person's cognitive abilities, as well as logical thinking and influence the teaching process of other disciplines. From a professional point of view the mathematical skills can be considered as an absolutely necessary tool for fulfilling the tasks at job.

However, knowledge of mathematics is deteriorating every year at all levels of education. Regarding adult education, it should be noted that little attention is paid to the practical development of mathematical skills.

Question: What should be done to promote adult mathematical skills? How and by whom should this be done?

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Thank you for your input, Anna! Indeed, mathematics are important. And maybe even more important is Numeracy, the basic understanding of numbers, quantities, measures, graphs, etc. A surprisingly high percentage of Europeans lack a functional level of numeracy. One can safely assume that the first step to solve this problem is to identify it and be able to screen adults to see which level they are in and what they need to learn. A group of experts led by an institution which is member of the EBSN (the Utrecht University for Applied Sciences in the NL) is currently working towards a European Numeracy Framework. Prof Kees Hoogland  presented this work at the recent EBSN conference in Malta, and you can watch the presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jFEvMSaOWs



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Anna, thank you for your comment. I would address your question with some EBSN resources. Promoting adult numeracy is something we need to get better at. I think - just as in the case of literacy - awareness raising campaigns can help a great deal.

OER: Introduction to Adult Numeracy

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Thank you Graciela and Ema for your introduction to the new agenda on ALE and the role of basic skills in the future of adult learning. Among the topics mentioned I would like to point out the cross sectoral or whole government approach that was emphasised in the new ALE agenda and in the visions of the speakers. From the Slovenian perspective this is very important. When (we are not yet there) we will achieve the whole government support for basic skills sector and adult education as a whole, we will finally achieve the recognition of ALE as equal policy sector to education of children and youth. The basic skills might get recognised as a vital part of adult education. No major shifts in the development basic skills can be achieved without stable funding and systemic approach to this vulnerable part of adult education. This is where EBSN network is doing a tremendously important job in EU!           

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Thank you so much for joining us and for your recognition of the work being done! We are really counting with your institute, SIAE, as a major stakeholder in this work. You are absolutely right in pointing out the enormous importance of such a whole-of-government approach. And is is a high ambition! In my experience, most governments are satisfied with putting together a committee containing the most obvious stakeholders... And it is not enough! But with a solid commitment from the government, there is hope!

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I agree that basic skills are the beginning, and all countries have a lot to do, especially for those who don't have digital, literacy our numeracy skills. But basic skills cannot be the end. Policies must also consider other students, even those with higher education.

In Portugal, for example, they seemed to have been forgotten by the public employment services. And, nowadays, it's very difficult to get back into the labour market after a few years working in the same area. After the age of 50 it is not easy to find a new job and it is not easy to start an entrepreneurship project either. Furthermore, the funding almost considers the young, not the elderly, and they too need to be reintegrated into the labour market.

In my opinion, the problem is because we don't have lifelong learning policies. We divide lives into generations and create measures and projects for each generation. Sometimes policies are more aimed at young people, other times they try to reach adults, but as individuals, it doesn't matter how old we are. We live continuously, and everything we learn, regardless of age, matters for who we are and who we can be and at all ages we need to be always learning.

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... is a very important issue indeed. And of course I agree that basic skills cannot be the end - but there is still a lot of work to do in all European countries, if we aim at getting the whole population up to functional skills level. And then - then we need good policies to open up unlimited upskilling pathways for all!

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Thank you, Dora for your comment. You raise many important aspects. Basic skills are definitely a start but not an end in itself, therefore Upskilling pathways recommends to place basic skills provision in the intersection of different guidance and counseling services in employment! It should be clear where adults with basic skills needs can move on to once they started their training! 

Another very relevant perspective is the overall policy coherence. Generation-led thinking may well not be the best guiding principle, as societies are facing the challenge of ageing. The challenge in my view is in creating functioning partnerships in policy and practice! 

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Welcome everyone. I would definitely agree that providing and dealing with basic skills should not be fragmented. They are regardless of age and education - it is much more in connection with the personality and the background. As a former project manager dealing with enhancing basic skills development as well, I would support actions based on need and demand, which might require the relevant partnerships from the relevant sectors.   

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Indeed, one of the problems of adult learning provision is that national programs often has not been based on need and demand. Yes, strong and multiple stakeholder partnerships need to be created, and all national programs need to involve guidance and motivational tools, to ensure that the demand is met in the best possible way.

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