chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up home circle comment double-caret-left double-caret-right like like2 twitter epale-arrow-up text-bubble cloud stop caret-down caret-up caret-left caret-right file-text

EPALE - Elektroniczna platforma na rzecz uczenia się dorosłych w Europie


Adult migrant education: Towards a modern enlightenment

by Katarina Popovic
Språk: EN
Document available also in: FI SL ET HU DE ES FR IT PL RO

/et/file/migrant-education-epale-0Migrant education EPALE

Migrant education EPALE


Professor Katarina Popović shared her reflections on what adult learning does and what more it can do to help migrants coming to Europe.


In the last few years migration rocketed to the top of the priority list in adult education. In an extremely short time, a highly political issue, which had been met with humanitarian interest at best, became a hot topic in adult education. The adult education community should be proud of itself – fast reaction, being on the ‘right side of history’, helping people in one of the most difficult situations that could occur in one’s life.


What was done?

Adult education organisations embraced the new target group and opened the doors for participants with numerous courses and adapted curricula and organisational forms. Adult learning professionals were advised and supported via teaching forms adapted to specific migrant groups, their learning styles, educational background and professional experience.

The offered courses consisted mainly of:

  • language courses, including ‘some culture’ that will help the integration of immigrants and their entry into the job market;
  • new or additional skills required for their new careers and employment;       
  • initiatives and programmes for the recognition of prior learning and previously obtained competencies.


What are the disadvantages of this approach?

Basically, nothing is wrong with these measures – they are necessary – but…


… they are not enough

Employment-oriented measures are the first step, but they should be accompanied by:

a) other educational measures – truly empowering and emancipatory education, and

b) broader social, economic and cultural actions.

It is too much to expect that education alone can solve all the problems related to migrants. As powerful as adult education might be, it can be successful as part of a set of measures.


… this approach tends to be outdated

The approach tends to develop an old, paternalist vision of integration, which is very close to assimilation, where the dominating culture shapes migrants like the backing pan shapes the cake. Less is done to support the development of migrants’ new cultural identity in a dynamic exchange with the hosting culture.


… this kind of integration is a one-way street

Migrants are expected to adapt to the host society, trying to achieve the predefined goals in the most efficient way, while the majority remains quite passive. There is a need for educational measures for the host population as well, as it can often be characterised by prejudices, xenophobia and hostility which drive migrants to isolation.


Prevention vs. treatment      

Even if all this is done successfully, adult education could fail in its main mission. Helping people in need – yes; embracing and supporting minorities – yes; working for the dignity of human beings and supporting inclusion – yes; so what is missing?

As much as education can do to help people and societies to solve their problems, its main task should be to prevent these problems –make people aware of the causes of the problem, understand the connections and backgrounds, reflect on the actions and anticipate the consequences.

It is no surprise that adult education in Europe is busy with the migrants. But it is hardly doing anything to prevent the problem. And by that I do not mean stopping migrants from coming to Europe, but preventing the situations that make them leave their homes.


Can adult education do more?

Can adult education be analytic, reflective, deep, help European citizens to ‘read the global world’ and be more active as citizens? Of course it can, although it’s not an easy task. But that does not make it less important. There are several areas where adult education can play a critical role that aims at long-term solutions and not just palliative measures:


Enlighten citizens on situations across the globe

Citizens should be informed about the situations in immigrants’ home countries, the causes for the wars, conflicts and poverty, and the interconnectedness of European and global politics. It is political education in its most valuable form: one that helps to create global citizens. This means that adult education should not only provide information and share knowledge, but it should also help us to avoid falling into what Pope Francis called ‘globalisation of indifference’.


Enlighten citizens on the role their own countries and political leaders have in the world

Adult education should make European citizens aware of the role their own countries and political leaders have in the world of politics. These citizens should actively control their governments and monitor the politics done in their name. Whenever a country buys or sells weapons, they will be used somewhere. Adult education should encourage people to ask questions – where, why, and what will the consequences be. Otherwise, the existing programmes for immigrants will not help much – except the few lucky enough to fall into the ‘immigration quotas’. As the journalist Wolfgang Bauer once said: ‘We need to stop the wars in the Middle East from robbing Europe of its concept of humanity.’


Stimulate critical thinking

Humanism is not enough; adult education should use all means of formal and non-formal education and learning to increase critical reception of media news, widespread xenophobia, hostile interpretations and populist misuse of the migrant crisis. This could be done by analysing migration throughout history and its role in creating modern civilisation, by showing the positive economic impact of migration and cultural richness that it brings. Most importantly, it should offer knowledge and support critical thinking about the real causes of the problems faced by European citizens, in order not to accuse immigrants for ‘taking jobs’, ‘emptying the budgets’ and ‘ruining our culture’...


Towards a modern enlightenment

Who should be held accountable for the failures, what are the roots of the problems, and what we can do about it – these are tasks for the new, modern enlightenment. The ‘migrant crisis’ reminds us that we have neglected them...


We would like to invite you to join EPALE’s live discussion on the role and challenges of adult learning in helping migrants to integrate in their host country, and how it can foster tolerance and cultural understanding. The discussion will be in English and will take place on this page on 31 May 2018. It will be moderated by EPALE Thematic Coordinator Gina Ebner.

We hope to see you there!

Katarina Popović is Professor and Scholar at the University of Belgrade, Secretary General of the International Council for Adult Education, President of the Serbian Adult Education Society, member of the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame and Editor-in-Chief of the journal ‘Andragogic Studies’.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Epale SoundCloud Share on LinkedIn
Refresh comments Enable auto refresh

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3
  • Filomena Montellas bilde
    Condivido pienamente e ho sperimentato quanto sia importante in classe la conoscenza della storia e della cultura di popoli diversi. Nella mia quarta di un istituto alberghiero (corso serale) sono presenti un giovane indiano e un giovane nigerino. Insegnando storia e letteratura italiana ho cercato di trovare collegamenti fra Italia India e Niger, invitando i miei alunni a raccontare la loro esperienza e la loro storia. L'integrazione è stata ricchezza e condivisione. L'inclusione è attiva fra i banchi di scuola  
  • George Koulaouzidess bilde
    Dr. Popovic is once again to the point. Migrants are experiencing what Peter Jarvis has very well described as "disjuncture". Disjuncture is a situation when our biographical repertoire is no longer sufficient to cope automatically with our perception of a real situation. In this case, the learning process that may assist the adult learner to develop new meaning-making skills is that of critical reflection. The process of assimilation is not going to assist the further development of the migrant communities in their host environment. Yes, it will help them survive, but is this the real learning outcome that we expect from our interventions? Take for example language learning. One trend (the most popular) is to teach basic communication skills through artificially designed texts and then let the migrants adjust to the cultural demands of the host country. This is a complete ineffective strategy... The other proposal is not to teach only language but to teach the host language through the use of authentic input in order to start a critical refelction process. To assist migrants to understand the frame of reference that is generated by the culture of the host country, to assist them in finding points of convergence and divergence, to support a process of stochastic skepticism. And at the same time the population of the host country should also have the opprotunity to learn about the culture of the migrants. It has to be a two way process... Normal 0 false false false EL X-NONE X-NONE
  • Brian Cauls bilde
    This is an inspiring blog that all adult educators should read, reflect on, and read again. In particular there is a salutary dissection of integration models that verge on paternalistic assimilation by “passive” hosts. The western white stencil dictates expectations about adaptation regardless of its own prejudices. While acknowledging all the great work going on in adult migrant education, how can we avoid such pitfalls? I look forward to the debate.