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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


Interview with Claudio Maria Vitali (National Institute for the Analysis of Public Policies - INAPP)

by Graciela Sbertoli
Language: EN

From 2012 Claudio is Member of the working group for the implementation in Italy of the EU Adult Learning Agenda, until January 2017 date on which he was appointed National Coordinator by the Ministries of Labour and Education. In 2018 he was commissioned to represent Italy in the WG ET2020 for Adult Learning and, from the same year, he is Project Manager of E. QU. A. L. – Enhancing Qualification of Adult Learners through the implementation of Upskilling Pathways - Easi Progress.

In INAPP Claudio is part of the Programming and Development Department, in which it cooperates to the drafting of the annual and multiannual activities Plans of the Institute. In this position he also cooperated in the drafting of the ESF Operational Plans of Ministry of Labour. Moreover, he is member of the Technical Scientific Committee of the INAPP, participates in the planning of continuing training of INAPP Staff and carries out some of the planned training activities. He is Member of the editorial board of the scientific journal SINAPPSI and coordinated the design of candidatures for international calls (EC, EACEA and EEA).

From 1995 to 2012 he was responsible for programming and evaluation at the Leonardo da Vinci and Life Long Learning EU Programs National Agency.


EBSN: Research shows that in most European countries there is an urgent need for basic skills learning provision for adults. In the context of the Upskilling Pathways recommendation, EU member states are currently working to establish national policies that will ensure efficient, sustainable and adequately funded national policies to meet that need. Because of the importance of this issue for many sectors of government (education, employment, health and social services…), such policies need to be created in cooperation with many different stakeholders. How should this be achieved? What are in your experience the main success criteria to ensure that this cooperation is real, robust and efficient?

Vitali Claudio: According to a CEDEFOP cluster exercise, Italy is a country with highest levels of market and employment regulation, with a less intensive investment in education and training (expenditure on education and training - 3.9% of LMP - are lower than the EU average, as are adult participation in lifelong learning and work-life balance policies).

There is increasing attention in European and national policies on the topic of adult learning and related connections with the notion of lifelong learning. But “adult learning” is in a field of political decisions extremely complex, since the responsibility is subdivided and shared between different institutional actors who are committed to making decisions at different levels (in the Italian case, for example, on a municipal, regional and national scale).

Such a situation may lead to consequences in terms of fragmented design and equally fragmented educational and training supply for this group of the population. If until today the analysis of the status of low skilled has predominantly considered the level of educational attainment, this approach seems to be relatively functional and a hyper-simplification, since it does not appear capable of taking into account skills and competencies acquired outside the formal contexts.

In the Italian case, the phenomenon of widespread functional illiteracy is associated with low rates of participation of adults in the existing educational and training opportunities.

Progress in the participation of adults between 2007 and 2017 in Europe has been extremely slow, passing in ten years from 9% to 10.9%: in the same period in Italy we passed from 6.2% to 7.9%.

Both at the European and the national levels we are very far from achieving the established benchmark of 15%.

The extremely synthetic picture here returned allows at least 3 main reflections:

  1. If “competence” is still definable as mobilization and combination of resources - not only cognitive but also, for example, relational (Le Boterf) - it should be borne in mind that the subjects we have talked about have certainly very few resources to “mobilize and combinel”. The paths of identification and valorization thereof therefore require operators (PES, Adult Learning Centers, Third Sector associations) with important skills and competences in order to stimulate reflexivity for an emergence of such resources that are limited and not perceived as such. The route must hesitate in a bid relevant (E. Morin) and sustainable (i.e., accessible) on the part of the recipients, whose decision to invest on themselves is, on average, anchored on very fragile bases.
  2. In terms of governance (raised and identified as a challenge even by OECD), decision-making models are still today associated to the typical processes of disjointed incrementalism (Lindblom, Woodhouse, 1990). It is a policy making mode adopted when are involved a plurality of decision-makers, with a diverse narrative of the problems and with different objectives (depending on their respective skills and roles). This entails a condition of partisan interdependence, in which the decision is made by progressive adjusting and decisions are taken with limited scope and application. We must switch to an overall long-term strategy, that keep together - under the umbrella of the notion of life long and life wide learning - both the subjective right to learning and shared solutions to common objectives to be implemented in different sectors/contexts.
  3. If measured against the agreed benchmark, the participation of adults to educational and training offers Record progress slowly and insufficiently. Less than 1 out of 10 citizens takes part in learning experiences, despite 1/5 of the European citizens (about 70 million, of which 13 Italians...) presents insufficient basic skills and finds itself in a condition of functional illiteracy. But beside this low rate of participation there is an even more worrying phenomenon, namely the gradual disinterest of citizens in the face of existing offers and opportunities, almost to the disknowledge of the value of use and exchange of skills and competences. Therefore, if existing devices and frameworks appear today capable of responding to the needs of those who access existing services, and if there are still a large number of adult citizens without motivation and confidence in the resolutive capacity of existing responses, strengthening the OUTREACH action is crucial. Just as it is necessary to find adequate and effective solutions, channels and communication registers to intercept the latent demand.

EBSN: Different European countries work very differently in what concerns the division of power and responsibility between sectors of central government and between the central national government and the regional authorities. What are in your opinion the opportunities and challenges connected with that division of power?

Claudio Vitali: Education and training of citizens are matters that in Italy involve a plurality of institutional actors with clearly defined competences and roles. This, on the one hand, permits a potential greater adherence to territorial specificities (which may concern demographic characteristics, features of local labour market, migratory pressure, aspects related to history, tradition and local culture, up to the use of different languages and dialects); on the other, it proposes, in terms of challenge, the need to guarantee to all citizens full and free access to the same qualitative level of supply of the educational services and the consequent availability of the competences acquired independently from the territory of acquisition of the same. If this is true about the whole education and lifelong learning system (the latter established by law in 2012 through a labour market Reform Act), the Adult Learning sector presents a strongly significant systemic complexity. In other words, the required multilevel governance involves administrations up to the single municipality, making it essential to operate through territorial networks (whose constitution is stimulated in the same norm previously mentioned), in which adult learning centres play an important-but not decisive-role in the definition of intervention programmes and in the decision on resource allocation. The challenge is to avoid making different opportunities available in the different territories, based on the greater or lesser proactivity of the members of the territorial networks. The definition of standards and minimum supply requirements remains the responsibility of the central Government, but the implementation of policies depends on local regions and administrations. It becomes central, then, to invest efforts in creating the conditions for continuous and permanent interinstitutional dialogue, to stimulate attention and to coordinate the energies available on common objectives.

Considering that the stakeholder mobilisation concerns policies and investments there is a strong need to be authoritative, believable and influential. It means at least:

  1. Providing convincing and robust evidences, i.e. using official figures, well organized and clear facts sheets and producing risk assessment and cost benefits analysis
  2. Use solid arguments, based on success histories, involving more direct witnesses instead of experts and design two or more alternative scenarios on an intervention consequence
  3. Early involvement through co-design actions, not only ask for support during implementation

Considering that stakeholders’ involvement and mobilisation implies time, resources (human/financial) and chance (to find a place in hyper busy agenda) there is a strong need to be effective: involvement and mobilisation are easier on specific objectives, thus considering the respective conveniences, powers and position/role of each stakeholder.

EBSN: Learning at work and for work has become an important political priority, also in the field of basic skills. The education sector, however, is keen on ensuring that this priority is not promoted at the expense of “learning for life” (for the individual’s own objectives, to ensure social participation and welfare, to safeguard democracy, etc.) What are in your opinion the main success criteria for basic skills policies that can adequately balance all these objectives?

Claudio Vitali: The point of equilibrium between very different perspectives must be sought: on the one hand, defensive and conservative attitudes are recorded by the sector of school - and education in general -, little inclined to include between the aims of its services and its mission the one of increase employability; equally defensive and conservative are the behaviors of a large part of the business, whose managers believe that the development of the basic skills of their workers is not their business. It is necessary that the development and maintenance of basic skills, whose mastery tends to be lost easily over time, are shared goals among all those who can play a role regardless of the place and the time of individuals life in which reskilling and upskilling interventions are carried out. Examples include:

  • inclusion of compulsory hourly allowances for workers to update basic skills pathways in national collective labour agreements;
  • maximum flexibility in the time of access and duration of the courses for adults who fall in school; significant investments on the quality of skills assessment processes and tools during prior learning identification and validation pathways





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).


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