It's widely known that the EU has a strategy for education and training but how does it relate to adult learning? Andrew McCoshan, EPALE's Quality Editor, went to the European Commission to find out. He spoke to Angela Andersson at the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, who is responsible for the coordination of the ET2020 Thematic Working Group on Adult Learning
If you work in adult learning, you might be forgiven for thinking that the EU's strategy for education and training – known as Education and Training 2020 or ‘ET 2020’– is rather remote from the day-to-day job of educating adults. Launched in 2009, and following on from the preceding ET 2010, it consists of a set of objectives and priorities designed to guide the development of education and training.
Given that these objectives need to be relevant across 28 Member States, it is probably not surprising that they have been formulated at quite a high level. However, as Angela Andersson points out, EU policy is in fact “very hands-on". The work of giving life to the objectives rests with Member States, and an important way in which they do this is through a set of working groups, one of which is devoted to adult learning. Through the Working Group, Member States can further develop their adult learning policies via mutual learning and the identification of good practices.
ET 2020 objectives and priority areas
Priority areas, 2012-2014
Making lifelong learning and mobility a reality
Lifelong learning strategies
European reference tools
Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training
Basic skills (literacy, mathematics, science and technology), languages
Professional development of teachers, trainers and school leaders
Modernising higher education and increasing tertiary attainment levels
Attractiveness and relevance of VET
Efficient funding and evaluation
Promoting equity, social cohesion and active citizenship
Early school leaving
Early childhood education and care (ECEC)
Equity and diversity
Enhancing innovation and creativity, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of education and training
Partnerships with business, research, civil society
Transversal key competences, entrepreneurship education, e-literacy, media literacy, innovative learning environments
Source: 2012 Joint Report of the Council and the Commission on the implementation of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) ‘Education and Training in a smart, sustainable and inclusive Europe’ (2012/C 70/05)
The current Adult Learning Working Group was launched at the start of 2014 and is working to a mandate that runs to autumn 2015. Twenty-seven Member states, plus Serbia, Turkey, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, each send an expert to the Working Group, which meets regularly. European adult learning stakeholders' organisations are also involved. Through the Working Group, Member States have agreed to take an in-depth look at 3 topics: adults’ basic skills, the effectiveness of adult learning policies and the better use of digital resources in adult learning.
And what about the outputs from the Working Group? “It is very important that outputs are concrete and useful for policymakers," says Ms Andersson. “The Working Group defines what sort of outputs it wants to produce." By the time it finishes it will have produced guidance on how to make adult learning policies more effective, especially in helping adults acquire basic skills and in making better use of new technologies in learning. There will also be self-assessment tools for policymakers and adult learning providers.
Feedback shows that the experts learn a lot from their participation. “Even countries with systems that are considered to be advanced make sure they participate because they want to learn from others and improve their policy and provision," comments Ms Andersson. “There's a lot of both formal and informal learning going on".
The Working Group will finish its work in October this year. At present, ET 2020 and the working groups that support it are currently being reviewed through a ‘stocktaking’ exercise. Given the positive views expressed in the recent ET 2020 evaluation, policy cooperation between Member States is sure to continue. And by that time the Working Group will have produced a range of outputs directly relevant to policymakers.