In early November, Gina Ebner attended the 2018 European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) in Vienna. Here are some reflections on what she heard (and maybe did not hear) during the week.
Highlights from the European Vocational Skills Week
I would have liked more attention on adults and CVET (this is of course true in general, but I also experienced this at EVSW in particular). I know, this is not surprising coming from me as a representative of general adult education, and I did enjoy the EC-OECD seminar that was dedicated to the future of adult education, but this was only one afternoon. There are key challenges for adults that need to be tackled.
I also really enjoyed the inputs by two international experts: Dr Shyamal Majumdar from UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre at the ‘Vocational education and training in Europe: Taking stock and looking ahead’ conference and Byron Auguste from the USA (have a look at his presentation!). It’s good to step out of our usual frame of reference and look at different experiences.
(By the way, did you know that there is also a global adult education association? You can find more information about the International Council for Adult Education, ICAE.)
The future of adult learning offers
Another learning point: adult education keeps surprising me by the breadth (or is that width?) of its range. One of the questions of the OECD was to imagine that mobile devices would be able to identify your learning needs by analysing not only your search history and online activities but also how and what you type (e.g. it could analyse your literacy skills that way). Then it would propose you online learning offers to fill these gaps. To be honest, I still don’t know what to make of this. It is light years away from the adult education that I work in and with. Will it help people? Possibly. After signing up for some online courses, I now receive rather indiscriminate proposals for other opportunities. I might react more favourably if they were more targeted. Do I want this information to be available? Not really. But then, I’m also on Facebook and to worry about privacy might be a bit hypocritical. Or redundant. If anyone could take this discussion further, I’d be very happy!
Integration of adult learning and CVET
And finally, a reflection on the relationship between adult learning and CVET. How close are general adult education and CVET? In many courses, learners might have very different purposes for learning. One learner might take an English class for personal development and travelling, another because their children have started learning English, another – because they want to change jobs and English might offer more opportunities. Does it make sense to try and find a category for the course that might fit it either into general or vocational education? Of course not. If you do a yoga class, you will benefit individually from a personal development point of view but it might also help you to deal better with stress at work.
Would it therefore be better to merge adult education and CVET? There are many arguments that would support this position – but (of course there’s a ‘but’!): would (liberal, general) adult education disappear? Would the traditions of ‘folkbildning’ or ‘Volksbildung’ (or however you refer to it in your country / language) continue? Would there be enough money left? Until we can be sure that adult education won’t be swallowed by CVET, we need to see recognise the differences while working closely together. Specific funding needs to be dedicated to general adult education while enabling people to move seamlessly between the sectors. Finally, all sectors in education & training need to be recognised and supported on more equal footing – this would really make the difference for the long-term.
Gina Ebner is the Secretary-General of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) and also EPALE's Thematic Coordinator for Learner Support.