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[Viewpoint] Adult education and culture: what are the realities in France and in Europe?

David Lopez, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLP) introduced the theme of links between culture and adult education at the seventh EPALE France thematic meeting, entitled 'Cultural action: what are the pedagogic approaches to adult education?'

[Translation (French-English) : EPALE France]



David Lopez, Director of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLP) introduced the theme of links between culture and adult education at the seventh EPALE France thematic meeting, entitled 'Cultural action: what are the pedagogic approaches to adult education?'

Hello David Lopez, can you introduce yourself please?

I am David Lopez; I work in the Ligue de l’Enseignement. I am also President of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLP), a group of European networks on education issues, created 13 years ago. The main objectives of this platform are, on the one hand to be one of the European Commission's partners, at a time when education did not get much attention in European issues, and on the other hand to show that all educational bodies (vocational training, students' parents, universities, adult education, the cultural approach, etc) have a lot in common. The platform was created so that people could communicate and work together, and especially could define policies to defend to the European Commission for a more social, more inclusive, people-based education system.

Adult education, popular education: what are the realities of these terminologies in Europe? 

Popular education / adult education: we may find the terminologies somewhat complicated. There is a tendency to think that popular education is a very French concept, and that it is not shared in other European countries, but I personally do not think so. We have carried out projects with colleagues in Spain, Finland, Greece: the concept of popular education also works in these countries. The problem might be that the terminology is not used in this form. Speaking about popular education in the new, incoming countries such as Poland, Romania or Hungary, for example, refers to older concepts which may cause alarm (education of the people). Yet the use of popular education as a tool to encourage people's emancipation works throughout the European countries: whether it's used as non-formal education for young people or as adult education, I think that we are developing forms which are similar to popular education.

Adult education: this is a term which is used by the European Commission in a significant way, as well as in other countries. In France, this refers more to the fields of social professional integration, and continuous education. However, taking the example of Scandinavia, we are closer to adult education, the voluntary education of people, and of permanent lifelong learning. We find the same idea in Germany and Austria.

I think that it does not rest on the terminology itself. We should rather try to define what is meant in all these questions: What is the place of the student? What is the place of the teacher, the facilitator, the trainer? From there we can all come closer to a much more European concept.

Adult education is a concept with a good rationale, so now we have to pass this idea on to our colleagues and in other places.

Last month, you took part in the conference 'Culture and education for all: developing skills for more resilient societies'. Can you tell us about this event and the thoughts it provoked?

In fact, during March 2018, together with the European Commission, Culture Action Europe and Lifelong Learning Platform, we organised an event on the links between culture and education in the context of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. It's a Year which is not very well known, and which deserves to be seen as more important in the eyes of decision-makers.

This meeting allowed us to form links; bridges between education and culture. We are convinced that education and culture come from the same family, by working together on education about culture and integrating culture into the educational aspects.

The former Luxembourg Minister of Education was involved in explaining these links. According to her, we must have a holistic approach between education and culture. Her title emphasises this: Minister of Education, Culture and Research. I have been able to point out this relevance and hope that a number of other countries, perhaps even ours, will be able to link culture and education.

I had the opportunity to say that in the thirteen years of Platform Lifelong Learning's existence, we have seen a different vision of Europe on questions of education. To begin with, we didn't talk about it. We referred to higher education for exchanges between students, for example, but we could not talk about education because it was not a European skill.  And then, faced with the issues of unemployment, we questioned Europe on matters of education: what had it done to change the model of learning, to be more inclusive in the labour market?

Then Europe was hit by terrorist attacks, in Paris, in Denmark and elsewhere. We questioned education about citizenship: does education provide answers on civic matters? I was able to express the fact that I felt that we had a rather schizophrenic vision in Europe, on the link to education. On the one side we had the assertion by the Commission and the European Council of the importance of education for the future of Europe. On the other side, we could see enormous contradictions: out of 28 countries, 25 had reduced their overall educational budget, making us think that they had a restrictive vision of education. They also stated that culture is important for the people, but at the same time we were witnessing the inexorable rise of populism, for a coalition of the extreme right worldwide, and especially in Europe.

In the face of these contradictions, we took the matter back to the governments and the European Council: what are you doing to stop this?

It is not enough, today, merely to announce a European Year of Culture and Education, or an increase in the Erasmus+ budget. We must rely more on civil society, on organisations, on associations, on the unions, on our social partners ... to change the relationship between education, culture and society.

After the broadcast of this interview, participants in the 7th Thematic Meeting met in groups of ten to discuss a collective question which they wished to put to stakeholders at the round table. See the list of questions and feedback from the round table in the following article.

Find feedback from the 7th EPALE France Thematic meeting.

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