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The new EAEA board with Uwe Gartenschlaeger (5th from right) in front of the Grundtvig statue in the courtyard of the venue “Grundtvigskforum Vartov” in the middle of Copenhagen. Photo: Sari Pohjola

Learning & teaching

Learning from Icarus at the annual conference of EAEA

Authors: Michael Sommer Published:

The new EAEA board with Uwe Gartenschlaeger (5th from right) in front of the Grundtvig statue in the courtyard of the venue “Grundtvigskforum Vartov” in the middle of Copenhagen. Photo: Sari Pohjola

Annual Conference of the European Association of Adult Education EAEA was held in Copenhagen in June. Holistic approach on lifelong learning that takes into account all human skills was strongly advocated.

What did Icarus do wrong? He probably did not have enough “skills” to build the wings correctly or – even better – not to start his daredevil flight. The large triptych in the hall of the EAEA annual conference in Copenhagen with the falling Icarus seemed like a reminder: educate yourself, learn for your life, otherwise you will lose it!

Above in the hall of Icarus, carved in stone in the courtyard below: N.F.S. Grundtvig, the founder of modern adult education. He is the antidote to incompetence and ignorance. In the discussions and contributions of the conference his spirit was summoned accordingly.

Anna Nikowska, representative of the European Commission of the Employment Directorate-General, referred almost exclusively to job-related competences in her presentation on the “Upskilling-Strategy” of the European Commission. The community and the economy need capable people. They must be trained and educated. Unemployment is often associated with low qualifications. 22 percent of Europeans have too low a qualification.

Therefore, with the new program phase from 2021 within the priority “Social Europe”, this task will increasingly be taken into consideration. Worldwide, according to Katarina Popovic of the International Council for Adult Education, there are around 800 million illiterates – enough work for adult education. She emphasized that the gaze must be placed much more than just on vocational skills and mentioned, for example, climate protection or political and social competences.

Not only does a person consist of his job, and the job is not just about professional skills. One should remember the classical concept from Germany, demanded the author Lene Rachel Andersen. The German concept of “Bildung” fits perfectly with the demand to look at people with all their abilities and their role for society.

The conference participants unanimously agreed with this tenor and advocated a “holistic approach” of adult education that takes into account all “human skills”. In addition to basic skills such as literacy or numeracy, this approach includes other competences, environment, health and citizenship and personal skills such as empathy or creativity.

Participants agreed it is necessary to promote not only vocational education, since one’s own education is not a purely private matter or a pastime, but ultimately always serves society. The EAEA has launched a project on the matter and is calling for power and joy in its manifesto “Adult Learning in the 21st Century: The Power and Joy of Learning”.

At the Copenhagen conference, the EAEA also elected a new board. The chairman is now the German Uwe Gartenschlaeger. He replaces Per Paludan Hansen from Denmark.

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Michael Sommer (PhD) is an ELM magazine editorial board member. He was the editor of the German magazine "Erwachsenenbildung" (until 2021) and works as a project developer for the Akademie Klausenhof. Email: sommer(at) Show all articles by Michael Sommer
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