The value of study visits lay in the close link with up-to-date challenges and developments in areas of education, training and lifelong learning. There was a huge link with the Europe 2020 Strategy and changes to the Education and Training 2020 Cooperation Agenda. This provided a unique opportunity for participants to reflect, share and gain new knowledge with European peers on a particular theme.
The impact of study visit participation was significant on both personal and professional levels. Based on follow up research we in the National Agency have conducted, a noteworthy impact can be seen within the field of adult education as a result of attending a study visit. For example, many adult educators were looking at how to integrate basic education into vocational education and training or how adults returning to education can be supported to reach their full potential. As a result new methodologies and practical ideas tested in other countries have been successfully implemented in Ireland. Another important aspect was the exchange of information; a number of adult educators in Ireland have been invited to other European countries to present at conferences on their particular area of expertise. A notable aspect of great interest in Europe has been the family learning initiatives in Ireland.
How do you feel the loss of individual mobility’s in Erasmus+ has affected the adult learning community?
It is true that the study visits programme was based on applications from individuals. While this allowed for a great deal of professional reflection, professional development and discussions with peers from other European countries, it depended on the motivation of individuals and agreement with the legal representative of the organisation to participate.
Based on our research one of the underlying themes reported back by the adult education community has been the importance of a holistic approach to supporting the adult learner in terms of skills development, support packages, training linked to the labour market and much more. Erasmus+ brings a more holistic organisational approach to programmes built into an organisations strategic plan. In Key Action 1 adult education staff can take part in training activities, teaching assignments or job shadowing in participating country. As with the study visits programme this is needs based and should produce high quality learning outcomes. The study visits programme required participants to impact on local, regional or national policy developments; Erasmus+ also has a strong emphasis on impact and dissemination of results which will be stronger with an organisational approach rather than the individual approach. The aspect of exchanging information and discussion with a range of European peers could be replicated in a virtual way through EPALE.
Based on your experience what opportunities does EPALE bring the adult learning community?
EPALE is a great opportunity for the adult education community to continue to share, network and reflect on their own practices. The themes of EPALE are similar to the study visits and closely aligned with the EU2020 strategy and Education and Training 2020. The site has the potential to be of high importance and interest to the adult education community. It brings the opportunity to network, share resources, learning and provide opinions and reflections on many different aspects of adult education in a virtual environment, not only is it a great way to keep up to date with peers across Europe, but it is an important tool for keeping up to date with developments in Ireland.