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Original language: German
The education sector, and in particular adult learning, plays a central role in the social and economic integration of migrants. From developing the formal and non-formal competencies required on the labour market to developing the necessary language skills for school, higher education, training, or professional and everyday life: It is almost impossible to imagine accomplishing this societal task without adult learning institutions.
Alongside integration requirements, it is also necessary to tackle the active inclusion of migrants and refugees in European societies. This aim, which is also included in the European Union’s Europe 2020 strategy for combating poverty and social exclusion in Europe, is of great importance for societal cohesion in the future. This is particularly the case in an era of increasing populism that extends to nationalistic and open tendencies of right-wing extremism on all levels of politics and society.
For some time now, the migration-related changes in our society have also been leading to changes in adult learning institutions themselves. Topics such as a more intercultural approach in public and private institutions, diversity, and inclusion are all widely discussed in the context of European education.
Addressing migrants as more than just recipients of education
Most adult learning institutions in Europe address migrants as a target group. Their participation levels are often well above the statistical average, as they participate in language courses as well as in various formal and non-formal initial and continuing education and training measures, in integration courses, and much more. Generally speaking, therefore, migrants are involved in these institutions as education recipients. What tends to be lacking, however, is active involvement in the entire portfolio of adult learning activities, in which migrants can be addressed not only as recipients, but also as providers of knowledge and as experts in their own right.
But what might such a situation look like in practice? A look at the strategies employed in adult learning institutions with regard to programme development can help to shed light on the issue. How are course programmes developed with regard to didactic content and on an organisational level? In order to develop effective learning strategies for learners with migration experience, it is essential that migrant communities and/or their representatives and organisations are actively involved in the development of adult learning programmes in the medium- and long-term. This is a key factor for successful inclusion in the education sector. The questions that ought to be discussed in that context include:
- How can migrants, their representatives and organisations become involved in the planning of programmes of adult learning institutions on a long-term basis?
- What are the factors that will support and promote the active, strategic inclusion of migrants?
- What are disruptive factors or obstacles to the active, strategic inclusion of migrants?
- What are the possible limits of inclusion in one’s own education institution with regard to organisational independence?
In recent years and at present, various projects and initiatives have dealt with the topic of active inclusion of migrants in adult learning and continuing education. Here are a few examples:
EduMAP: Research into guidelines and practices in adult learning
Guidelines for adult learning in migrant communities
The guidelines, which were published in 2015, are the result of a multi-year process of active engagement with the reality of life in migrant communities, a process in which numerous representatives from the field of adult learning in Austria participated. The basic assumption is that issues relating to migration, heterogeneity, and social inclusion must be dealt with in an active, structured, collective, and knowledge-based manner. The guidelines represent a voluntary commitment, provide orientation, and create a framework. They aim to advance the discussion about topics relevant to people with migration experience in adult learning, and to encourage stakeholders to actively engage with migrant communities, take a clear position on migration and deal with institutional racism and structural discrimination. This involves identifying and eradicating various forms of exclusion and discrimination. The guidelines and further details are available for download here [DE].
PRISMA (Participation Rather than Integration of Migrant Communities in Adult Learning)
DIVERSITY: Including Migrants through Organisational Development and Programme Planning in Adult Education
The DIVERSITY project aims to help bring about a paradigm shift in the way migrants are perceived as a target group in the field of adult learning: Moving away from a “special group” with specific provision structures, and towards inclusion in standard adult learning provision. Specifically, the project wants to offer continuing training provision for skilled workers and managers that will enable adult learning institutions to develop an operative model with diversity-focused education provision. By implementing this provision in the institutions’ organisational development, the aim is for migrants to no longer be treated as a separate group of participants, but rather as standard participants in a more diverse adult learning provision. The two-year project, which will be coordinated by the Hanover Agency for Adult Learning and Continuing Education (AEWB), starts in 2019. Further details will soon be available at www.aewb-nds.de [DE - basic information in EN].
This is just a small selection of projects and initiatives dedicated to the active inclusion of migrants in adult learning and continuing education. However, successful and long-term active participation also requires equal access to education and training. Unfortunately, this is not the case in all countries and for all target groups.
About the author: For 20 years Tino Boubaris, project coordinator in the Association of Lower Saxony Education Initiatives (Verein Niedersächsischer Bildungsinitiativen e.V.), has worked in numerous European projects and networks in the field of adult learning and vocational education and training. He also acts as a consultant for associations and initiatives concerning, among other things, organisational and financial matters. He volunteers for the Lower Saxony Refugee Council (Flüchtlingsrat Niedersachsen) and as Chairman of the Association Bildungslabor e.V., which develops and implements innovative projects at the interface between art, culture, and education. Since 2017 he has been German ambassador for the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE).
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