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Strategic Inclusion of Migrants in Adult Learning Programme Development

Teanga: EN
Document available also in: DE CS

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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


Logo EduMAP
The EduMAP (Adult Education as a Means for Active Participatory Citizenship) project, running from 2016 to 2019, is an initiative of the EU research programme HORIZON 2020, which focuses on adult learning and young adults at risk of social exclusion. Particular attention is paid to the education policy recommendations and practices that are necessary to strengthen active participatory citizenship among young people who are disadvantaged in various ways. The research-based recommendations include, among other things, improving access to adult learning, involving young people from vulnerable groups, and facilitating easier collaboration and communication in political consultation and decision-making processes among all parties, including young people, involved in the field of adult learning. Further details and the project’s publications are available for download here.

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)


Logo prisma
The aims of the Erasmus+ project include the identification, exchange, and dissemination of good practice in the active and strategic involvement of migrant communities in decision-making processes with regard to programme planning in adult learning institutions. Among other things, a matrix is being developed which makes it possible to assess the inclusion potential of measures and activities of adult learning institutions in various respects. The project, coordinated by the VNB and featuring partner organisations from Germany, Austria, Denmark, Cyprus, and Lithuania, began in October 2018 and will conclude in September 2020. Further details are available at [DE] and on the project’s Facebook page.

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 [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).

More blog articles by Tino Boubaris

Europa im Herzen, Erwachsenenbildung im Kopf, EPALE im Bauch [DE]

Appetite for Enterprise: female migrants discover their entrepreneurial skills

European cooperation in education and training in transnational projects: from exchanging experiences to creatively solving problems.

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  • Theognosia Petrou's picture
    Very interesting read.
    Indeed, migrants should be included in strategic planning of adult education. We need to know what their real needs are and not trying to fulfil the needs we believe they have without including them in the process.
  • Tino BOUBARIS's picture
    We need to remind ourselves of this fact from time to time!
  • Prudence Onyejiaka's picture
    The good thing about involving migrant communities in decision making when it comes to adult learning is the realistic nature of such choices. It brings the learning process home to it's benefactors. Making it most productive and worth the while.
  • Tino BOUBARIS's picture
    From my point of view, the reason to foster active participation of migrant communities in adult learning should not only be economy-driven, but seen as a natural way of dealing with the matter of strategic programme planning. This applies as well for all other groups of learners. 
  • Mona Schliebs's picture
    Am Institut für Lern-Innovation bearbeiten wir ein Projekt, das im weiter gefassten Sinne vielleicht auch in den Kontext passt. Das Projekt ACCEnT zielt darauf ab, Berufsberater, Berater und Coaches, die mit "schwer erreichbaren Gruppen" arbeiten, durch eine innovative Online-Lernumgebung zu unterstützen. Das Hauptergebnis des Projekts wird eine benutzerfreundliche Online-Lernumgebung sein. Ziel des Online-Seminars ist es, die Berufstätigen in die Lage zu versetzen, den Integrationsprozess schwer erreichbarer Gruppen, zu denen neben anderen natürlich auch Migrant*innen gehören, in den Arbeitsmarkt zu beschleunigen und zu erleichtern.
  • Tino BOUBARIS's picture
    Ich finde den Terminus tatsächlich schwierig, da sich dahinter manchmal etwas anderes verbirgt, nämlich eigene Mängel in der Ansprache der Zielgruppe(n). Ich bin daher für die Anführungszeichen sehr dankbar!
  • Tino BOUBARIS's picture
    Da werde ich mal nachschauen! Ein sehr hilfreiches Projekt "Verbraucherschutz für Flüchtlinge" der Verbraucherzentrale Niedersachsen wurde leider wieder eingestellt. Mit der Ausbildung von Multiplikator*innen wäre eine nachhaltigere Alternative möglich gewesen.
  • Maren Lohrer's picture
    ... dass das niedersächsische Projekt eingestellt wurde. Denn "Verbraucherbildung für Geflüchtete" vereint Theorie mit Praxis, Lernen mit Alltagsanwendung. Man liest ja oft in den Medien von Flüchtlingen, denen Handyverträge „angedreht“ worden sind, die sie überhaupt nicht verstanden haben und die sie finanziell überfordern.
    In München gibt es übrigens „Pass auf, was Du unterschreibst“, ein Kooperationsprojekt des Evangelischen Migrationszentrums und des Evangelischen Bildungswerks. Hier werden Themen der Verbraucherbildung in Herkunftssprachen vermittelt.
  • Tino BOUBARIS's picture
    ... das Beispiel schaue ich mir gerne mal an!
  • Maren Lohrer's picture
    In der Erwachsenenbildung treten Migrant*innen meist nur als Teilnehmende auf, nicht als Expert*innen in eigener Sache, so beschreibt es der Blogbeitrag sehr anschaulich. Wie lassen sie sich aktiv einbeziehen, wie lässt sich das brachliegende Potenzial für die Integration nutzen? 

    Gerne möchte ich die Positivbeispiele um ein weiteres ergänzen: 
    Projekt „Verbraucherbildung für Geflüchtete“ 
    Das Evangelische Bildungswerk (ebw) hat im Oktober 2016 am Standort Regensburg ein Modellprojekt gestartet: In der ersten Runde ließen sich acht Multiplikator*innen, die selbst einen Migrationshintergrund haben, zu alltäglichen Verbraucherthemen schulen. 

    Im Projekt werden die Multiplikator*innen mit guten Deutschkenntnissen befähigt, die Verbraucherthemen in ihrer Muttersprache Arabisch, Kurdisch, Persisch (Farsi/Dari) und/oder auf Englisch weiterzugeben. Es geht hierbei nicht um die bloße Übersetzung, sondern um eine Anpassung an die Lebensweltlichen der Geflüchteten/Zuwanderer, denen zum oftmals Grundkenntnisse des deutschen Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftssystems fehlen. 

    Die Multiplikator*iinnen gehen in Gemeinschaftsunterkünfte und Erstaufnahmeeinrichtungen für Flüchtlinge, um die Menschen vor Ort zu erreichen. Auch sind Einsätze bei Integrationskursträgern, in Moscheen, in Ehrenamtsprojekten, Helferkreisen, Hochschulen und Schulen möglich.