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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



EPALE summary: October focus on intergenerational learning

by Markus Palmén
Language: EN

/epale/en/file/intergenerational-learning-summaryIntergenerational learning Summary

Intergenerational learning Summary


EPALE's Thematic Coordinator, Markus Palmen, looks back at EPALE's October thematic focus.

Intergenerational learning must be the oldest method of instruction: dynamic youth learning from the wisdom and experience of old age, and vice versa. Intergenerational learning is an important element of lifelong learning to this day, but due to urbanisation, migration and changes in the family unit the gap between generations is widening.

EPALE’s October focus on intergenerational learning produced three insightful blog posts and a lively discussion, held by the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN).

In her blog Children as Actors for Transforming Society, Jean Gordon revisited the July annual forum of the CATS organisation. Gordon is the coordinator of CATS, which is a weeklong conference aimed at children, young people and adults engaged in promoting the participation of children in society. The event itself is intergenerational: children, young people and adults engage side by side in learning through workshops, including games and roleplaying. This year’s theme was the exploration of different forms of exclusion and finding good practices on promoting inclusion.  

In her blog post and accompanying video, Gordon shares learning testimonials from both adults and children. Adult attendees mention a newfound understanding on how to combat bullying and stereotyping and how to plan communities that respect children. Children and young people mentioned the importance of creating a safe group environment for everyone to contribute in a teamwork setting.

Joaquim Barrio, Mame Darra Ndiaye and Bernat Oró wrote about their school of La Verneda-Sant Martí in their blog post Intergenerational solidarity to make our dreams come true. La Verneda is a well-known adult education institution based in Barcelona, Spain, with offers ranging from basic skills to secondary education. They shared that the essence of their school’s approach was creating heterogeneous classrooms with learners from various age groups and backgrounds, supporting each other in a dialogic learning process. Students also take part in decision-making processes at their school.

The approach of La Verneda extends even beyond the walls of the school. The school offers instrumental training in local primary schools for the students’ families:

Research shows that when children’s family is involved in their education, this has a direct impact on their academic performance. If they see their fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers studying alongside them, then their motivation increases.

A blog post and accompanying video reportage from thematic coordinator Markus Palmén focused on apprenticeships, a form of VET often containing elements of intergenerational learning. Apprenticeship policy in England takes an unexpected turn describes a time of change in apprenticeships in England. The educational level of apprenticeships is increasing, which means that apprenticeships are used by many adults for career progression. For young people apprenticeships are equally attractive because apprenticeship fees are fully funded, thus allowing access even to university-level qualifications without tuition fees. However, the introduction of a recent policy designed to increase apprenticing, the Apprenticeship Levy, has produced a surprising fall in apprenticeship starts. A debate has now started on the causes of this drop in an otherwise rising trend.

EBSN’s online discussion focussed on basic skills outcomes for adults who engage in family learning programmes. The main topics discussed were:

  • How can intergenerational learning motivate, or otherwise support, adults in improving their basic skills? 
  • What are the success criteria for effective national policy in this field?

The lively discussion identified the family as a basic unit of intergenerational learning, both for transferring values and concrete skills. However, participants thought that migration is causing this age-old learning unit to erode.

In terms of the first question on motivation, Joanna Warecka, an NGO worker from Poland, contributed the following idea on how to create a successful environment for ICT teaching for seniors:

…we realized that our young volunteers struggled with understanding how to teach older people ICT and seniors at the same time felt overwhelmed with the way the youth approached them. And then we had this idea that the best combination would be a tandem of teachers - one of them 60+ and one young specialist in newest technologies.

Meanwhile, Marija Mitemberga, a mathematics teacher from Latvia, wrote that she first encountered the concept of intergenerational learning through EPALE:

…after reading posts you all wrote, I had an idea to suggest a project in our school, where there could be a special day or afternoon, when children together with parents could do some special learning work, organized by teachers...

Participants found that intergenerational learning is sometimes caught between what funders want and what learners want – funders emphasising ‘hard’ outcomes, such as employability, and learners often appreciating ‘soft’ outcomes, such as improved quality of life and social networks. Intergenerational learning programme planners need to strike a balance here:

…to … encourage the development of soft outcomes as well as aiming at being able to present some of the hard outcomes included in the national strategies which fund the program.

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  • Beāte Bernedīne Konstanta's picture
    It is inspiring to read about intergenerational learning method usage in everyday life, because nowadays we need help to decrease this gap between generations and schools environment can be suitable for fulfilling this need.