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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


Sustainable adult education in relation to immigration and asylum

by Regina Rosc
Language: EN
Document available also in: DE

International experts followed the invitation to the event “Sustainable adult education in relation to immigration and asylum”, organized by EPALE Austria, and contributed with fascinating articles.

The subjects of flight and migration are highly topical. In this connection, the object of the event was the important and constructive access to deal with the receiving society. The articles based on the presentations and workshops deal with different aspects of flight and migration.

In this article, adult education measures are to be pointed out, which from the point of view of the Austrian Ministry of Education (BMB) are of great significance, and are – in advance – about a lot more than learning German: A widespread, populist standpoint says that, first and foremost, migrants and all displaced people must learn “correct” German. Only good language skills enable best-possible integration, and integration is the individual obligation of the immigrants.

There is no reflection about what this means for the affected persons. (Which politician, which journalist has ever learned Dari or Farsi – and that at least up to level B1 and as quickly as possible?!) Perfect German language skills, too, are not a guarantee for a job, for social recognition and participation.

Respective educational offers are without a doubt important, however, it is even more important to direct the view to societal structures, which produce inequality, which build access barriers and which have a discriminating effect. The focus should not be on the integration of migrants and displaced people into the majority population, but on equal opportunities for all people, irrespective of their ethnic and social origin.

Which contribution does Austrian adult education make to increase equal opportunities, eliminate barriers, and what about the aspect of sustainability?

“Initiative for Adult Education”

The programme “Initiative Adult Education” (Initiative Erwachsenenbildung), promoted by the Austrian federal government and the provincial governments, has been running since January 2012. It enables second chance attempts on fundamental educational attainments, including basic education, for free and is above all aiming at disadvantaged persons. Approx. 70 % of the participants have a migrant background. A third programme period is currently being prepared.


  Foto: Rubia Salgado, Thomas Fritz, Regina Rosc (left to right)

“Education for Young Refugees”

A further funding programme of the BMB – “Education for Young Refugees” (Bildung für junge Flüchtlinge) – addresses young asylum seekers; here, too, the programme focusses on catching up on basic education.

The sustainability of both programmes is reflected in principles essential for the BMB – just to name a few:

  • The transfer of competences expanding the participants’ ability to act.
  • The interests and resources of the participants are the starting points for the offers.
  • Autonomy and self-efficacy of the participants are promoted.
  • The learning process takes place on an equal footing and is a dialogue among equals between teachers and learners.
  • Political education, anti-discrimination and anti-racism are cross-cutting issues in all learning areas

Beside educational offers, the BMB has been promoting development and research projects within the scope of the European Social Fund (ESF) for years. In multi-year project networks, subjects of adult education in the migration society were and are being dealt with.

One promotion criterion is that institutions of adult education, specific NGOs addressing people with migration experience and science must form a project network. The cooperative work in the projects provided or provides, resp., substantial contributions for sustainable adult education:

  • Projects deal with “multilingualism” in the context of migration; results are included into the basic educational work and implemented.
  • The educational participation of women with a migrant background in rural regions is strengthened by approaches of community education. The “free radios” act as an interface between private and public life, female participants develop regional language learning offers and radio broadcasts.
  • Educational wishes of 2nd generation migrants are researched, generating recommendations and options for action for adult education.
  • Simplified instruments for vocational orientation for people with migration experience are present; early career planning increases the motivation to learn the German language, an open-source learning platform is available for the target groups.
  • Taking stock and analysis of the role of NGOs are performed, supported by migrants. Their integrative capacity at the municipal level and their potentials are surveyed. Based thereon, a profile for education experts and respective training are elaborated. This training authorises representatives of these NGOs to act as intercultural mediators at the municipal level.
  • Within the scope of the Erasmus+ Education programme, too, numerous projects are promoted, which provide important contributions on the subjects of flight and migration.

Quite a lot is happening in adult education, there are innovative approaches, promising project results and measures enabling access to education, continuing education and the labour market. Still, there is a lot left to be done to master the challenges of a migration society.

In conclusion, one item is to be picked out, which is very significant for practiced diversity and thus for sustainable adult education: the adult education institutions must open up, reflect exclusion mechanisms, initiate and implement organisational changes and changes in contents.

It is particularly important that people with migration experience are not only addressed as participants, as the so-called target group, but that they are accepted as actors, as trainers, as multipliers, as programme managers, as managers at all organisational levels of the institutions. With their experience, their potential, their multilingualism, they contribute to the institutions opening up.

The “Guidelines for Adult Education in the Migration Society” (Leitlinien für die Erwachsenenbildung in der Migrationsgesellschaft) offer orientation and a framework for change processes towards opening of institutions of adult education. These guidelines have been uploaded by the Federal Institute for Adult Education (Bundesinstitut für Erwachsenenbildung) at (in German).

What should the near future of sustainable adult education in the context of flight and migration look like?

  • Adult education reflects the multifaceted societal situation: persons of different origin are represented in all areas and at all levels of the education systems.
  • Educational offers are perceived by everybody; the differentiation between persons with or without migration background is obsolete.
  • Multilingualism is a central element in the measure, also in areas where language represents an access barrier.
  • Discourses about migration, about discrimination and racism are held at all levels of adult learning organisations, in all educational areas.

The contributions and workshops of the conference were a further step in this direction, resulted in fascinating and constructive discussions, and are reflected in the present publication.

This text is based on the introductory words of the EPALE publication "Sustainable Adult Education in Relation to Immigration and Asylum".

About the author:

Regina Rosc, Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, studied German and Romance philology at the University of Graz. After teaching in Paris and Vienna as well as doing journalistic work, she is staff member of the department for adult education at the Federal Ministry of Education since 1987. She is responsible for the fields of basic education, migration and equalisation. Rosc is the initiator of the portal and of the online magazine


This article was originally published in German.

Foto: (c) OeAD-GmbH/APA-Fotoservice/Hörmandinger

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