EPALE Thematic Coordinator and EAEA Secretary-General Gina Ebner looks back at 2016 from an adult education perspective.
There’s a general agreement, at least in the (social) media that I read, that 2016 was a horrible year. In Brussels, we moved from lockdowns to attacks and a continued presence of soldiers on the streets. Politically, we saw a movement towards more nationalistic and isolationist parties and decisions. And, of course, Bowie, Cohen, Prince, George Michael and a number of other well-loved people passed away.
What does this have to do with adult education? Of course, not everything is connected to adult education. There are economic and political parameters that we as adult educators cannot influence. But there are some issues that deserve to be looked at through an adult education point of view.
Prison education could do a lot to prevent radicalisation among young men. Quite a few of the Belgian terrorists moved from petty crime to attacks. A more comprehensive strategy to offer education in prisons could contribute to giving people more perspectives and alternative world views.
2. Media literacy
I tend to be quite active on Facebook. My newsfeed is now full of people of roughly my age who post newspaper articles and pictures of kittens (well, at least that’s what I see!). Recently I liked an article and then I immediately realised that I had no idea whether it was true. We tend to believe what fits into our world view, and most of us are willing to agree with articles that confirm this view. Not that fake news is anything new – manipulating and making up facts have been around in different forms since forever. This also means that we need to look more closely at media literacy, and not only for children. How do algorithms work so that we receive exactly the news that confirm our opinions? In the era of ‘alternative facts’, we now more than ever need factual data as well as information on how fake news are produced and disseminated, and adult education definitely has a role to play.
3. Basic skills in science
There is a worrying tendency to completely ignore basic science facts – from parents opposed to vaccinations to climate change deniers and everything in between. Perhaps we should include basic science knowledge into basic skills? Don’t we need at least basic knowledge about how the world works? I’m increasingly frightened by the willingness of people to ignore basic facts and then act in a way that endangers their families, their communities and in some cases – the world. Don’t we need a strategy that tackles this potentially life-threatening ignorance?
In your opinion how should adult education react to recent developments? What’s your adult education analysis?
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.