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EPALE - Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe


More efforts for basic skills education and increased digitalisation of adult education demanded by EU Working Group for matters of education policy

by Katrin Handler
Language: EN
Document available also in: DE RO

After two years of work, the current ET 2020 Working Group on Adult Learning presents recommendations in the areas of basic skills education, digitalisation and coherence of adult education.

Six European Working Groups for education policy

Within the scope of the “Open-Coordination Method”, Working Groups have been established in the area of general and professional education (ET 2020) since 2010. In these, peer learning and an exchange of good practice have been taking place since then. Jointly, the members of all EU countries develop recommendations and compile policy handbooks. Austria, too, is represented in these work groups with experts and thus involved in the design of this European process.

In the years of 2014-2015, a generation of six work groups was active, which now will be concluded at the end of the year and present their results. They addressed themselves to school education, vocational education, higher education, digital and online learning, transversal skills, and adult education.

The Working Group on Adult Learning met a total of eleven times in Brussels, Stuttgart and Oslo, held several webinars and accompanied studies. Now, the representatives of all countries have agreed on joint recommendations.

Highlights from the recommendations on basic skills education

Basic skills education still requires coordinated effort and support. Maximum effort is to be made to encourage educationally disadvantaged people to participate in learning: basic skills education is to become self-evident, just as any other kind of continuing education. Learning offers are to be adult-oriented and use authentic resources from all areas of life.

Adult basic skills educator, too, must become an attractive profession with profitable development options and appropriate work conditions – these are the conclusions of the work group.

Many of these recommendations have already been successfully implemented within the scope of the Austrian “Initiative Erwachsenenbildung” [Initiative for Adult Education]. However, as far as the work conditions are concerned, some work remains to be done in Austria, too.

The new literacy is digital – just as the new adult education

Digital working is a basic skill like reading, writing and arithmetic. No one can do without it anymore, and participation is bound to it. Adult education does not reflect this digital change in its offers and working methods yet by far.

Therefore, the work group recommends a much wider mediation of digital literacy. Digital tools can and should be utilised much more in basic skills education, for example – also as learning support for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Mobile terminals, open educational resources and social media have the great potential to really open up education. Adult education must use these possibilities.

European cooperation: who controls, who participates?

The ET 2020 Working Groups are instruments of the “Open-Coordination Method” (OCM), which, ideally, includes an agreement of joint objectives and guidelines between the member states. In that, the work of the Working Groups is not open-ended, but bound to the ET2020 and Europa 2020 strategies.

Responsibility for the ET 2020 Working Groups lies with the Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs. In terms of contents, the moderation by the Commission is formative – unlike, for example, in the work field of culture, where representatives of the member states themselves are leading such work groups.

Detailed results available shortly

The results of the current group will be published in the form of a comprehensive report, an abridged report as well as in the form of information graphics on shortly.

At the beginning of 2016 already, a new generation of work groups is to commence work. The work group for adult education is to concentrate on work-place learning.


Author: Birgit Aschemann (CONEDU Austria)

This article was originally published in German.

Further information:

  • The ET2020 Working Groups (information of the European Commission)


Image: Maycoll F. Vieira / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

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