EPALE’s annual pan-European conference was held on 1 and 2 October 2019 in Warsaw, Poland. The conference gathered more than 220 participants from 38 European countries participating in EPALE project.
The aim of the EPALE Conference 2019 was to engage European and national adult learning stakeholders, adult educators and EPALE users in constructive discussions about creating the best future for the EPALE community. These discussions enabled the European Commission and EPALE to gather concrete suggestions from delegates to ensure that work on EPALE takes stakeholder and user views and ideas into account where possible.
The conference started with an overview of EPALE and plans for its development, followed by testimonials from people about projects they had worked on successfully, using the platform to find partners, submit proposals and disseminate projects and resources.
The event provided the opportunity to listen to a range of different EPALE representatives, including NSS staff, thematic coordinators, ambassadors and stakeholders. As a free platform, EPALE supports inclusion and encourages anyone working in adult education to come together to have meaningful discussions and positively impact on best practices and educational policy.
Round table discussion on the first day of the conference was on Keeping a finger on the pulse of adult learning – how can EPALE’s content stay relevant and engaging for its diverse community. Participants had the opportunity to hear about a range of ways in which EPALE is used to support adult learning, including how the site can support Erasmus+ projects and how OERs and MOOCs are increasing the scope of EPALE. Participants had the opportunity to hear from NSSs, EPALE Thematic Coordinators, users and stakeholders, giving a range of perspectives and case studies. This session included a live interactive user survey, allowing participants to feedback on their EPALE experience and also to suggest themes and topics. Panellists were Christian Friedrich, Dimitrios Kiriakos, Filiz Keser Aschenberger, Gina Ebner, Marin Johnson, and Martin Elung-Jensen.
On the first day of the conference, the participants also had the opportunity to participate in the workshop that dealt with EPALE as a powerful sharing and collaboration tool. The participants were divided into three working groups each of which discussed the same topic.
These workshops looked at empowering adult learning professionals through a communication platform and its resources, and by strengthening a Eurocentric approach. The workshop aimed to encourage participants to look at adult education from a more European perspective.
On the second day of the conference, delegates could choose to attend the upskilling workshops, which specifically focused on how EPALE can help support adult learning and upskilling.
The first workshop moderated by David Mallows was on EPALE as an upskilling tool. This workshop focused on the adult skills needed in 2019/2020 and how EPALE can support adult learning and upskilling. Considering the needs of EPALE’s different target groups, the workshop reflected on EPALE’s potential in the context of the content and resources available on the platform.
The second workshop moderated by Laura Austen-Gray was focused on EPALE as a monitor for developments in adult education. Given the dynamic nature of the adult learning sector, this shared workshop brought together all participants to discuss how policymakers can benefit from EPALE.
The third workshop moderated by Dearbháil Lawless was on Learner Voice in Adult Education: The Importance of Authentic and Meaningful Engagement. This workshop included best practice examples of learner's voice with particular focus on the work of AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation in Ireland. This includes the largest qualitative research project in Europe; the National Further Education and Training Learner Forum, learner voice stories and campaigns, governance representation, and adult education events.
The fourth workshop moderated by Christine Bertram covered the topic How projects can use EPALE – a guide. One of EPALE’s most popular functionalities is the ability to find practical information relevant to users’ daily work. This workshop introduced a flyer that has been specifically developed to support and engage Erasmus+ projects. All newly funded projects in Germany will receive this flyer explaining how to use EPALE throughout the project life cycle.
The fifth workshop moderated by Gina Ebner was dealing with Continuing VET on EPALE.
Given the vastly diverse VET landscapes in Europe, this workshop aimed to explore EPALE’s contribution to fostering a dialog on good practices and providing a space for cooperation in continuing VET.
The conference ended with an inspirational talk on the concept of ‘Bildung’ by Mette Hvid Brockmann, which crystallised the importance of individual lifelong learning in protecting the health and wellbeing of the whole of society. ‘Bildung’ refers to the link between philosophy and education, with an understanding that both personal and cultural aspects lead to self-cultivation, which in turn leads to an individual’s inclusion in wider society
During both days of the conference, participants had the opportunity to hear inspirational speeches on case studies and good practice examples from various EPALE community members from different parts of Europe. Delegation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consisted of two members of NSS EPALE Bosnia and Herzegovina and two EPALE ambassadors in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Attending the conference was a golden opportunity for our ambassadors, as well as for all participants from countries across Europe, to discover the mutual concerns of adult educators and feed into the development of the platform.
All EPALE Stakeholder Conference 2019 presentations can be found here.