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EPALE discussion: How to ensure optimal inclusion in adult learning on the provision and policy levels?

As part of our March focus, EPALE is organising a written discussion on how to ensure inclusion in adult learning and what makes for an inclusive adult learning provision. The discussion will take place on this page on 22 March at 10:00 CET and will be moderated by EPALE Thematic Coordinator Simon Broek and Ellen Boeren. Don’t miss the opportunity to share your views and experiences with the EPALE community.

Inclusion in Adult Learning.


As part of our March focus, EPALE is organising a written discussion on how to ensure inclusion in adult learning and what makes for an inclusive adult learning provision.

The discussion will take place on this page on 22 March at 10:00 CET and will be moderated by EPALE Thematic Coordinator Simon Broek and Ellen Boeren from Edinburgh University. Don’t miss the opportunity to share your views and experiences with the EPALE community on any of the following topics:

10:00-12:30 CET

Solving inequality on the level of adult learning provision:

  1. What types of inequality do you see related to adult learning (educational background, social status, age, digital divide, migration status etc.)?
  2. What do adult learning professionals need to know and do to offer inclusive provision?
  3. How should inclusive adult learning be organised and offered?

Discussion left open during lunch interval

13:30-16:00 CET

Solving inequality on the policy level:

  1. How to ensure that adult learning systems are optimally accessible for those who need them the most?
  2. What barriers exist and how can they be overcome?
  3. What recommendations would you give to policy makers who design and implement adult learning policies related to the Upskilling Pathways initiative?

 **Comments are now open. To see the latest comments, click the 'Refresh comments' button.

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Hello everyone!

if you want to hear more about this topics, to get in touch with few of the best european projects and partners, to create new ideas, to network on a european level and to enjoy the city with the highest life quality world wide, you definetly have to join our conference on the 21st of June!

More informations you will find here.

So hope to see you soon in Vienna

Kind regards,


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I agree with the previous comments that adults are in lack of time for additional education. Work, families and other things are more important at some point. Where should they find real time to learn if you are not allowed to leave earlier?
Also the feeling of fear for more old adults is the reason not to go to learn.
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I suppose that the main problem for adults who want to get additional education is a lack of time, and also fears that modern methods and technologies have gone far ahead and it could be difficult to absorb new knowledge and skills.I think it is necessary to provide more opportunities for online learning from home.And training should be gradual and include a lot of practice.
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Like Ellen, Maria Manuela and Christine already talked about  the difficulties of entering adult education systems for people from foreign countries or lower educational backgrounds, the need of an alternative direct approach and also the creative way to teach could be a bridge to overcome the mentioned difficulties. In Germany there are many free educational courses offered for people in difficult life situations, but unfortunately many times it is problematic to reach participants and also to stimulate them for a regular continuous visit of the offered educational programs. 
I think we have to think about alternative ways of reaching people that are in need of educational progress and also ask us those people, what they are really looking for. Especially related to our work with refugees, the question; What do they individually really want and also what way they would like to be taught are for importance. 
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Dear participants,

Many thanks to everyone who has participated in this very interesting event. I hope you will join again for a future event and I look forward to interacting with you again.

For both the morning and afternoon sessions, you can find a recap of the main issues discussed.

Thanks again.

All the best,


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Hi everyone, it was very interesting to follow the discussion and get a lot of new ideas and views. Thank all of you! For those who want to join our EPALE conference "Upskilling Pathways - Equal Opportunities & Participation through Adult Education", we invite all of you to be part of the event, discuss, connect with national and international players and create new projects. One aim of the conference is to create ideas and networking pools in which initiatives and projects from different European countries present, practice their methods and network with each other. There will be projects from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and many more. Save the date, the final program and the invitation in our NSS Group are coming soon. Until this happens, take a look on our events from 2016 and 2017. Nice greetings from Vienna
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It is important that policy makers focus on adult learning policies, not only on education and learning in relation to initial education. Nowadays, too many adults are still missing out to let the focus on adult education fade away! Policies need to focus on making it feasible for adult education providers to offer more individualised and flexible support. One size fits all approaches are unlikely to work. Policy making should be bottom up, not top down.
Taking into account the voices of the voices of adults and potential learners will be helpful in designing sound policy measures, in cooperation with a range of relevant stakeholders. The informational barrier has been recognised by many of us. National policy makers should be encouraged in investing in databases that clearly outline and provide details about existing learning provisions for adults in their countries. Adult learning policies need to keep a focus on basic skills support, which features in the Upskilling Pathways programme. It is indeed vital that this focus does not get lost and that we return to a situation where adult learning is not only about vocationalism.
It is important to recognise some adults will need more basic support. Policy makers need to understand that online and distance education might be too challenging for those who lack basic digital and literacy skills, and who are not used to self-directed learning. Additional policy measures targeted towards those in rural areas need to be put in place. Europe might profit from further unification in relation to validation and recognition of learning, as featured in the Upskilling Pathways programme. Continued encouragement for learner mobility would be appreciated.
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the lack of interest and motivation is one of the crises consequence, how can people with low qualifications, without earning a salary, unemployed, have the motivation to engage in a qualification pathway, if sometimes they can't see that even with that their future might be brighter? it is complicated, and we feel this in adult training a lot.
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I'm not sure it is truly a lack of interest... it's probably the opposite: there's a plethora of competing interests. I've done a research project in the past (it is within the UK context), but it gives some insights over those competing interests that you people are faced with and that you have also observed in your daily work.

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Sellist olukorda nagu praegu, ei inspireeri kõikides töötajate töötajates, uuesti alustades enda arendusega, isegi mitte väikesepalgalisi, sest neid toidavad töötu kassa kui ametühing.EU on alustanud juba lõhkiläinud künast! Tuleb teha tagasikäik hariduse programides.Olen olnud 192 riigile loodud maailma uue haridusprogrammi projektide osalus, kus minu kanda oli antiikkunst ja moderne kunsti projekt.Eesti haridusministeerium on äsja käivitanud katseid koolides teemal "Maailma kõige targem rahvas", projektis - 1.kuidas saame uurida õppimist sätestatud, 2.kuidas infot kodeerida.Õppimine on see, kus sa muudad materjali enda omaks ja alles siis saad seda mõistlikult kasutada.
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I work in a college with an adult skills budget.  This funding stream can only be used in certain restricted ways on approved qualifications.  We have recently offered some short free courses which we are covering the costs of as a college as we are unable to offer those small steps into learning that some others can and used to be available everywhere.  I also find the heavy focus on maths and English is actually a barrier in itself.  When we offered short vocational courses and short creative courses - we were over run with calls.  Many of these people would benefit from some updating of English or maths skills and digital skills - but they were not knocking on our door for those - they needed a way in.  I also find the assumption that updating these skills needing to lead to a qualification is also a barrier for some.  For some, the qualification is less important that the learning.  I do believe people should get credit for learning but the qualification element may also make some learning less attractive.  The qualification is only vital if they are using it to access another programme. I have very mixed views on this!  We also find some people at level 2 who are over 25 in the UK are a little trapped - if they are ready for level 3 they can get an advanced learner loan but there are less options at level 2 and courses come with a hefty price tag.  There are of course some providers that have alternative funding which does allow for some informal learning steps but this often seems precarious and is not widely available.  So in terms of policy, there needs to be a simplified, sustainable and well understood provision of adult learning opportunities across throughout the UK, which links/maps to EU provision, rather than it being a lottery depending on where you live and if you have heard about what is on offer or whether you are deemed to be a "target group
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The mentioning of those over 25 is interesting, which can be linked to previous discussions on the role of initial education, and how policy makers loose their attention for adults. Good points!
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I love your point about how people used to acquire the maths and English skills through creative and vocational courses... I've had some discussions on how basic skills can be taught in a "not obvious" way (e.g. crafts, sports, community groups, choirs...) - and this is recognised in some E+ projects but frequently not beyond and funding for anything beyond a pilot phase is very difficult to come by.
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What support will be available to individuals?

To boost access to and take up of quality learning opportunities, adults with low levels of skills would have access to Upskilling Pathways in three key steps.

  • Step 1 – Skills assessment

This is to enable adults to identify their existing skills and any needs for upskilling. It may take the form of a "skills audit": a statement of the individual's skills that can be the basis for planning a tailored offer of learning.

  • Step 2 – Learning offer

The beneficiary will receive an offer of education and training meeting the needs identified by the skills assessment. The offer should aim to boost literacy, numeracy or digital skills or allow progress towards higher qualifications aligned to labour market needs.

  • Step 3 – Validation and recognition

The beneficiary will have the opportunity to have the skills she or he has acquired validated and recognised.  

What do you think, the right approach?

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yes, it can prevent that certain adults have to start from scratch. Nevertheless, the question is how good this system will work? E.g. we know that many migrants have difficulties in having their foreign qualifications being recognised in new country contexts? Do we have good systems in place these days to deal with this situation?
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I agree with this approach. But, what about when people need to reeducate themselves when their jobs are outdated. Would they be able to access something like this. In Iceland if people would need that again that already had an outdated higher education they wouldn't have the same right as a person who didn't get any education. Just a thought to think about in the "fourth revolution". 
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Dear Ellen I cannot agree more with the steps you mentioned above!In Macedonia, you can be involved in adult education organized by many different organizations, offering different kinds of courses but the problem is that we don't get as many participants as we want especially from unemployed people (who should participate this courses the most due to the fact that they would be more qualified if they attended some training). Most of these courses are free but unfortunately people seem not interested or unmotivated to participate in such. Some working organizations in Macedonia offer a constant improvement and development for their employees and even pay for training to achieve this, but unfortunately this is not a big number. Maybe it's about the mentality of the people and their eagerness to do something and stop being SO passive!My idea is that we should organize some motivational seminars during secondary school (especially in the last two years) and reach to every single individual by notifying him/her that they can constantly work on their own upgrade no matter if they are students, or employed or unemployed, no matter the gender, nationality or religion. 
Snezana Danilovska
CDI (Community Development Institute)
Lifelong Learning Network Macedonia
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There is a whole issue around learning how to learn... but to get to that stage, you need to get people through the door first... how could policy support that better? Or do we need to look elsewhere (the learners directly) to address this issue?
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Good comment. My feel here is that policy makers want to avoid having too many adults with low skills on how to learn. That is potentially one of the reasons why adult education receives less attention than it actually deserves? It is good to see a focus on making sure all children get a good start in life, but we are far away from the situation that all adults have very good levels of basic skills.

Raising more awareness of these issues among policy makers is needed?

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Yes, it's a real problem. There is little recognition that skills acquisition (in general) will be beneficial to work performance which is further driven by the focus on contribution to the economy.

There have been quite a few discussions, among others at the 1. European Education Summit, that countries need to move beyond the economic imperative to be able to fully capitalise on people's skills and potential.

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In fact, although in portugal priority is also given to vocational training and qualification, basic skills are increasing to have a weight, it is very important, for example if you go to an internship there are some basic skills you must reveal, like relational ones, cultural ones also, don't you think?
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I totally agree, more awareness is needed, and we have public and civil society organizations that can do a more effective work on this, including digital citizenship issues, regarding adult training, it empowers people. For sure women, for example migrants, need this to have the best inclusion. 
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Policy can help people on this issue, for example by supporting and financing more appelative projects regarding adult education in countries where early school leaving is a problem, e.g., it is a form of give tools that can help people to build enriching pathways. To be aware that one must learn how to learn is not always clear for some public.
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You can click on the link to see more information about the Upskilling Pathways initiative.

You will indeed see it focuses on the following aspects:

  • basic reading and writing
  • calculation
  • using digital tools in everyday life
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    From my experience, which is teaching a language as a Second Language to immigrants,  the writing of L2 teaching curricula adapted to the Framework (I mean, the Common European Reference for Languages ​​(CEFR) is necessary and a priority.  Specific accreditations (certificates) must be designed for L2 teaching courses that unify the existing ones and that can be issued by the different institutions and organizations that teach language courses. These accreditations will have an informative value and they must be collected: the amount of hours taken and the level reached, as well as a short description of the contents that have been worked on in the course, according to the descriptors of the CEFR. 
    It is necessary a general plan of organization, normalization, regulation and evaluation of the teaching of second languages ​​to immigrants and refugees. This plan, promoted by the Ministry of Education and Science and coordinated with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, must be agreed with the Autonomous Communities and other administrations and social organizations and include the necessary means for its implementation.
    And, related to teachers' qualifications, no program of continuing education or specialization of second language teachers will make sense if the dignification and administrative regulation of the teaching profession is not seriously and urgently undertaken. This fact is especially urgent in the case of teachers of Spanish as a foreign language. Public administrations can contribute to this by recognizing the specific nature of this training.
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    Learning opportunities abroad, and language as the tool for personal development in an international context

    On European level we don't take the role that each country have - to cater for language-  and lifelong learning. The funding and tools for international cooperation is a supplement to the responsibilities that every single country has. The EU is not an "owner", the decisions regarding education are taken nationally. This is clearly visible in all policy documents.

    But what we can do on EU level is to support different kinds of mobility. I agree that this is a possibility we can see in Erasmus+ for vocational training and for Higher education student, but not for learners in general adult education. And there is a demand for that.

    In my opinion the most important factor for individuals for holding back is fear. You don't dare to go abroad because you don't feel comfortable regarding language skills. Having woorked with European cooperation for many years, my experience is that both staff and learners most of all ask for possibilities for funding study visits. And we say no. No study visits for groups of learners or staff in a single organisation.

    Following "the theory of fear" it might be an idea to test letting groups of adult learners and staff,  mixed or separately, go abroad for structured learning activities. A long term effect follow up and evaluation could be implemented to see if the theory is correct. If it is the first  visit in a group leads to new steps in the same direction, catching interest for other countries and all other effects that come with it. Once a traveller during safe conditions, and you dare to take a new step, to overcome your fears, to face that it wasn't as "dangerous" as you once believed. And as I wrote before, this goes both for staff and for learners. Teachers and guidance councellors are role models. 

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    Οι πόλεμοι , η φτώχια ,η διαβίωση σε απομεμακρυσμένες περιοχες του κόσμου  είναι μερικές αιτιές ανισότητας στην εκπαίδευση ενηλίκων.
    Οι πόλεμοι βέβαια δυστυχώς εξαρτώνται απο πολιτικές και συμφέροντα ,αλλά και σε αυτές τις περιπτώσεις  ,οι ομάδες εθελοντών που προσφέρουν τις υπηρεσίες τους,μπορεί να εκπαιδευτούν  και να προσφέρουν ανάλογα με τις εκάστοτε ανάγκες  απλα και κατανοητά προγράμματα εκπαίδυσης ενηλίκων  ,ως παράθυρο ευκαιρίας γιά μια καλυτερη ζωή 
    Πιστευώ ότι με πολλές και άοκνες συνεχείς προσπάθειες ,μπορουν να γίνουν μικρά ,αλλά σταθερά βήματα.
    Εκει 'οπου επικρατέι ειρήνη  , η πρόσκληση  ,μεσω δήμων κοινοτήτων χωρητικών αρχών και διοικήσεων  για ανοικτές συζητήσεις με όλους τους  ανθρώπους που στερούνται εκπαίδευσης  ώστε να μπορέσουν να εκφράσουν τις ανάγκες τους γιά εκπαίδευση όπως οι ίδιοι τις αντιλαμβάνονται,θα μπορουν οι απόψεις να αξιολογηθούν να διαβαθμιστούν  και αφου γίνει η κατάλληλη διερεύνηση σχεδιασμός στοχοθεσία  και υλοποίηση μικρών βραχυπρόθεσμων προγραμμάτων ,αναλόγως της αξιολόγησης των αποτελεσμάτων να γίνονται τα επόμενα προγράμματα 
    Φορείς και παράγοντες  που μπορούν να βοηθήσουν μέσω τεχνογνωσίας και τεχνολογίας  να κληθουν να βοηθήσουν αφου τύχουν ταχύρυθμης εκπαίδευσης (π.χ. άνεργοι επιστήμονες,εκπαιδευτικοί ,εκπαιδευτές ).
    Υπάρχει βέβαια και κατήγορία ανθρώπων που έχουν κάποιες γνώσεις και θέλουν να τις αναβαθμίσουν  αλλά στερουνται ,βασικού εξοπλισμού π.χ. ηλεκτρονικών  υπολογιστών ,με την παροχη και την διάθεση ηλεκτρονκων υπολογιστών σε κάποια  κοινοτικά κέντρα κλ.π. ίσως να μπορουν να συμμετέχουν σε προγράμματα  εκπαίδευσης εξ αποστάσεως.
    Η ανισότητα σε ευκαιρίες εκπαίδευσης ,είναι ίσως η βασικότερη αιτία  δυστυχίας ,άρα εάν και μέσω της κανονικής εκπαίδευσης σε όλες τις βαθμίδες(νηπιαγωγεία ,δημοτικά ,γυμνάσια ,λύκεια ,ανώτερα και ανώτατα εκπαιδευτήρια ) γνωστοποιείται η προσπάθεια εξάλειψης αυτής της ανισότητας σε θέματα εκπαίδευσης και ζητηθεί η βοήθεια και η συμμετοχή όλων όσων μπορούν ,να στείλουν αυτό το μήνυμα  μακρύτερα ,ειτε μέσω ,οικογένειας ,φίλων συγγενών γνωστών , και  η ανοικτή πρόσκληση  για εισηγήσεις από όλους μέσω της πλατφόρμας ,με ανοικτή ατζέντα εισηγήσεων ,για συγκεκριμένο χρονικό διάστημα δόσει βήμα σε ανθρώπους όλων των τάξεων και από διαφορετικα περιβάλλοντα  να εκφραστουν ,είτε αφεαυτών είτε μέσω  αντιπροσώπων  ,τότε θα υπάρξει μιά σφαιρική εικόνα,θα ανοίξει ένα πλατύ παράθυρο ενημέρωσης και αναβάθμισης των προσπαθειών  απάμβλυνσης του προβλήματος.
    Πιστεύω ότι  οι καλύτεροι εκφραστες του προβλήματος της ανισότητας στην εκπαίδευση ,ειναι αυτοι που το βιώνουν
    Ειρήνη  Γεωργίου ,εκπαιδεύτρια /Λεμεσός /Κύπρος
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    Google translate tells me that your last sentence reads like 'I believe that the best representatives of the problem of inequality in education are those who experience it'. I like this sentence and it very much links back to previous comments made about the need for bottom up approaches in policy making!
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    thanks for the comment that's exactly the meaning , we all realise that if you suffer a problem obviously you know it better than any body else and if the chance is given to you to express your opinion probably your suggestion will give the best solution ,that;w why i suggested an open agenta for everybody concerned and an open campaign were every body could express opinion out of his point of view 
    we have a greek saying that the wisdom of many people is better than the wisdom of one
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    Surveys always indicate that lack of time and lack of money are two major barriers preventing adult learners from taking part in activities.

    Any insights in how different countries have introduced policy measures to overcome these problems?

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    In Iceland we are lucky that way that some of our courses are funded through a union fund so people can get their courses refunded. I think this is a very much necessary action. Also the employers need to encourage their staff members to be allowed to get education during work hours. It could be a win - win for both parties. 
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