So what do we mean by “Learning?”
The European EPALE platform, in which we are delighted to be involved, is designed to make it easier for stakeholders from different EU countries to exchange views on the subject of adult education and training. The aim is to identify good practice which will enable us to keep improving all our initiatives. With 28 countries involved, it is a large and comprehensive project based on professional, political and cultural considerations. This is the strength and originality of the European approach, but it is also quite a challenge!
Our British colleagues are responsible for coordinating this initiative by running and publicising the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe. In France, we have translated it as “Plateforme pour l’Education et la formation des Adultes”. From my point of view, this translation raises a question on which I intend to shed some light in this post.
In the EPALE French-English glossary of terms related to knowledge-exchange activities via the platform, we find the following translation:
conditions d'admission/d’accès à l’apprentissage
“Apprentissage” is an accurate translation of “Learning”, but with the suggestion (formation) given in brackets, in case French-speaking stakeholders might confuse “the activity of learning” and “the administrative approach” associated with the work-linked strategy.
Historically, we have found this approach in vocational training centres (CFA) and rural vocational training centres (MFR) and now, thanks to Europe, we see it in a large number of training agencies as well as in engineering schools and universities. This caution may be commendable (even though stakeholders are, I think, quite capable of distinguishing for themselves between different meanings of words, which one often has to do in French), if it were not for the fact that it seriously distorts a vitally important issue: refocusing our professional concerns not on what formation (training) stakeholders do in France, but on what learners do in Europe, namely apprentissage (learning), as the European Union has been encouraging us to do - for some time now!
Personally, I would have translated «Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe» as «Plate-forme Numérique d’Echanges pour l’Apprentissage des Adultes en Europe», although the acronym PNE2AE is not particularly catchy. This translation would not put any particular emphasis on either education or training. We often find this ambiguity, for example, in a general sense, with the key European slogan “Life Long Learning” which, surely for the same reasons as those stated above, is translated as “Formation tout au long de la vie”, or with “Ecole de la seconde chance” (Second chance school).
Yes, I’m all for “learning throughout my life”!
For French stakeholders such as public authorities (State, Regions and other bodies), financiers and consultants (FPSPP, OPCA, OPCACIF, AGEFIPH and the National Employment Agency, among others) and consequently, for training and educational team leaders, this gives rise to a chain structure which, it seems to me, does not place enough emphasis on what the learner is doing. It’s quite possible to learn without your trainer always being there (see the new FOAD decree of August 2014). It’s quite possible to learn without the training consisting of countless informal procedures! And people will increasingly be learning in environments which offer a mix of formal training activities (from training to learning) and informal activities made possible mainly by the development of digital technology.
Recognising “Learning” or “Apprentissage”, as opposed to “learning activities”, at a European level means getting involved in the international field of open learning (e-learning which largely grew out of the UK’s Open University experiment) which accords great importance to flexible and multimodal learning situations, by using digital tools and resources to create increasingly open learning environments.
Jean Vanderspelden, a consultant with ITG Paris, supports open and distance learning projects designed to develop the skills of adults. He is studying the relationship between “Adult education and integration of digital technology" in the practices of knowledge stakeholders who train and support learners at all levels, including the most poorly-skilled adults. 13/10/2015