European educational policy is continuously evolving and, although important, keeping track can be quite a challenge.
I work in CONEDU, the Austrian Association for Research and Media in Education and Training, an adult education organisation that focuses on providing information on and networking in the adult learning sector.
We believe that it is getting more and more important for adult educators to know the mechanisms behind European structures and systems of policy-making, as they are directly affected by European educational policy.
The sector itself is characterised by an increasing international influence. Adult education professionals need knowledge about European policies and structures, when considering European funding options and programmes or working together on international projects with partner organisations.
The adult education sector is characterised by an increasing international influence.
Professionals who are well connected and possess broad knowledge about the EU can also act as advocates for adult education on a European level.
With this goal in our mind, we at CONEDU asked ourselves, how to make sure that adult educators have access to that knowledge and grasp how European education policy influences their work.
Creating a basic text, preferably an e-book, and using the national structures of adult learning and professionalisation to integrate that text into a validation system for adult educators has proven to be a successful model worth sharing.
Integrating our resource into the national accreditation system
CONEDU manages the largest information portal for Adult Education in Austria, on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research. The portal consists of, among many other services, text-based sites and documents for download.
Our activities in the field allow us to maintain a good network in the national and international field of adult education.
Adult Education in the European Union
- The PDF version of the dossier on “Adult Education in the European Union” consists of 27 pages and focuses on EU policies and legal basics, strategies, funding programmes, networks and links.
- The e-book is published under a CC-BY-licence, which enables readers to re-use it while citing the author’s name. In order to provide accurate information, an update is planned for mid-2018 to integrate the latest developments in European adult education policy.
- The writer of the article was the editor of the e-book.
On the other hand, adult educators in Austria often come from different backgrounds. Even though there are university programmes on adult education, only a very limited amount of individuals working in the field have completed such a programme. As a result, adult educators’ qualifications and knowledge might differ greatly from one another.
In order to create a common standard for adult education professionals with different previous experiences, a validation system has been established.
The Austrian Academy of Continuing Education (wba) is a validation provider for adult educators. According to the director Karin Reisinger, “formally, non-formally and informally acquired competences and experiences can be recognised according to set standards”.
Adult educators in Austria often come from different backgrounds. Only a small percentage of individuals working in the field have completed a university programme.
Candidates wishing to obtain accreditation as adult educators must demonstrate their knowledge of adult education by passing a multiple-choice test based on a reading list.
When a working group reviewed the multiple-choice test in 2016, they proposed integrating a European perspective into the system by adding a specific document to that reading list, providing insight into the structures and mechanisms of the EU.
Producing a useful resource on Adult Education in the EU
That is how our basic text about EU, an e-book called “Adult Education in the EU”, was selected by the steering group for its broad perspective on European educational policy.
The author of the e-book, Birgit Aschemann, is a research associate and educational editor at the CONEDU team and manager of the evolving unit on “digital professionalization. She was the Austrian member of the ET2020 Working Group on Adult Learning from 2014 to 2018. Working groups within the strategic framework “Education and Training 2020” (ET2020) are designed to help EU member states to further educational policy development through exchanging good practices and working together on common tools.
Many of the official European sites only display information in a matter-of-fact-way. However, processes and control mechanisms are equally important for adult educators to know about.
When writing the e-book, she was able to draw on her experience and explain the background dynamics, processes and structures of EU policies in adult education. The e-book is targeted at colleagues working in the field of adult education.
According to her, many of the official European sites only display information in a matter-of-fact-way. However, processes and control mechanisms are equally important for adult educators to know about.
Therefore, the e-book is focused specifically on these aspects. The objective, quoting her words, is “not only to provide knowledge but to also reflect on the context and the background dynamics influencing that knowledge.”
We encourage organisations from other countries to think about integrating a European perspective into the training and accreditation systems of adult educators.
Experience from the wba shows that the feedback is good, and that the publication is successful in adding a European perspective to the validation system, because it is the only publication on the reading list that deals specifically with adult education in Europe.
Sharing our experience with our colleagues abroad
Our experience shows that qualification or accreditation systems for adult educators that provide the learners with structured knowledge about EU processes and mechanisms can ensure that professionals working in the field are well equipped to work in this environment.
From our positive experience, we encourage organisations from other countries to also reflect on the professionalisation of their staff and to think about integrating a European perspective into the training and accreditation systems of adult educators in their countries.
Publishing resources about European Adult Education policy as OER and communicating in a large network with national colleagues are useful ways to achieve this.
CONEDU’s tips to the reader:
- It has proven effective to concentrate not only on providing facts, but also background information. Information available on “official” EU sites is often hard to understand and fact-based. Additional publications for adult educators should add value by explaining the background mechanisms.
- Adult education experts with an insight into European policy – for example members of working groups or similar bodies – have valuable knowledge that is worth sharing. It is important to work together with such key professionals in the respective countries in order to produce high-quality resources.
- It is crucial to cooperate in a national network of adult education experts, including those responsible for validation.
- Texts that serve as basic literature for accreditation systems should be written in a clear and straightforward language. Highly structured text, as is commonly used online, can help readers to focus and to get a clear picture of the content in their head.
- Information that is designed to reach a broad audience should be made available by providing it in a format that is easy to obtain – such as an e-book – and preferably free of charge. Open licences such as CC BY can help to spread information amongst adult educators.