European Commission logo
Create an account
Can select multiple words with divider comma

EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Chapter 2 on Basic Skills and Integrated Policy

Profile picture for user Graciela Sbertoli EBSN.
Graciela Sbertoli

2.1. Defining the issue: what do we mean by basic skills?

For the purpose of this unit we will deal with basic skills as defined by the European Basic Skills Network.

The European Union defines basic skills as the entrance point to all types of learning. The webpage called Developing Skills, presented by the European Commission’s DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, provides an excellent overview of the context in which policies for adult basic skills are to be created.

Although this unit will focus on “basic skills” as the sum of literacy, numeracy, digital competence, oral communication, and second language acquisition for immigrants, we are very aware that the creation of integrated policy for this field demands that the focus be wider. Efficient policy for basic skills provision to adults will also integrate other complementary and transversal skills. For an excellent presentation of the concept of “life skills”, we recommend the document “The life skills approach in Europe” adopted by the European Association for Adult Education, EAEA, in the context of one of their partnership projects.

Some European stakeholders prefer to use the term “literacy” as involving all the other basic skills. This is the case of Ireland, as you can read on the web site of NALA, the National Adult Literacy Agency.

In this blog on EPALE, David Mallows discusses what we mean when we talk about literacy. David Mallows has 30 years of experience in adult education as a teacher, teacher trainer, manager and researcher. He was previously Director of Research at the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy (NRDC) at the UCL Institute of Education, London and currently represents the European Basic Skills Network in EPALE as thematic coordinator for Life Skills.


2.2 What do we mean by integrated policy?

The issue of ensuring good provision of basic skills learning for adults is a complex and multilateral challenge. It can be addressed from different perspectives like social inclusion, education, labour market, health or social welfare. What does coherence in between policies mean and why is it important in basic skills provision? How can policy coherence be created and what are the hindering factors? These questions were addressed in a keynote speech by David Mallows, (UK) during the EBSN’s annual conference in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2015. The presentation  introduces three perspectives of basic skills policy coherence: vertical, horizontal and systemic, explaining their necessity and also highlights hindering factors. The presentation is supplemented by a video interview with David Mallows.


Source: EBSN 


The video interview refers to other presentations from the EBSN’s conference in The Hague in 2015. You can find these presentations here.



Questions for reflection after reading David Mallows’ presentation and watching the video:

  • How would you explain to the main stakeholders in your country the need for both horizontal and vertical coherence in the policy you would like to create and implement?
  • To what extent can you see coherence in your current policy? What are the strengths and challenges of the current national policy?
  • Do you know enough about existing coherence challenges in your own policy? How can you get a better overview of the current situation?
  • Are the main challenges related to horizontal or vertical coherence? How should these challenges be met, in your opinion? How can you communicate these thoughts to other stakeholders?


Recommendations for further relevant resources are welcome in the comment section below!
The Capacity Building Series of EBSN provides free open educational resources (OERs) and massive online courses (MOOCs) through EPALE, to help the implementation of the European Commission recommendations on Upskilling pathways in EU Member States. EPALE is funded by the Erasmus+ programme, as part the European Commission’s ongoing commitment to improving the quality of adult learning provision in Europe. The project is implemented with the support of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).

Continue here:

Chapter 3 on EBSN's Berlin Declaration
Back to the main page
List of Resources

Login (1)

Users have already commented on this article

Login or Sign up to join the conversation.

Want another language?

This content may also be available in other languages. Please select one below
Switch Language

Want to write a blog post ?

Don't hesitate to do so!
Click the link below and start posting a new article!

Latest Discussions

José Casares
Community Collaborator (Silver Member).

Why is Economics Taught so Badly at School?

In the ECONOMY FOR LIFE project, we surveyed young Europeans about their level of education in economics, and the results are surprising: the majority admit to having received a very poor education at school and university and wish to improve their level as they feel lost in these subjects.

Profile picture for user aniltoros07.
Abdullah Anil TOROS
Community Hero (Gold Member).

Importance of EPALE in Adult Learning in Europe

Importance of EPALE in Adult Learning in Europe

Profile picture for user aniltoros07.
Abdullah Anil TOROS
Community Hero (Gold Member).

Adult Education in Europe

Adult Education in Europe


Latest News


We are all creative - results

The "We are all creative" project fosters adult participation in cultural life and creativity...

Patryk KLEJ

Upcoming Events