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.
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: