Written by Linda Berg
I had the pleasure of participating at a conference in Brussels the 25th Octobre, in the beautiful Hôtel Metropole in the heart of Brussel, in the very best Poirot style. It was the first time that EPALE and the national coordinators of the EU Agenda for Adult Learning from France, Luxemburg and French-speaking Belgium respectively arranged a common conference.
The title and question of the conference were: Which role may adult training play in social inclusion? The conference started with a (much too) short lecture by Eric Mangez. His conclusion – and reply to the question in the title of the conference – was that the adult training of today must focus upon the inclusion of vulnerable persons in their meeting with the uncertainty of the future.
After that, we heard about good practise in the three countries, in both plenary sessions and parallel workshops, which are in French elegantly called des atéliers. We were among others presented to the networket la Grande Ecole du Numérique in France, the project Je prends ma place dans la société in Belgium and the foundation Association des Parents d'Enfants Mentalement Handicapés in Luxemburg. During the day, an impression that I had before the conference was confirmed to me: The adult training systems are very different in the three countries. But the conference participants from the three countries agreed on some common principles: It is important that the adult training has a focus upon autonomy and creativity, and that the adult participants get self-esteem and learn how to learn.
The Norwegian Ministry of Education published in 2016 a white paper on social exclusion, focusing on among others basic skills including digital competence, qualification of immigrants and cooperation between the social partners in a national skills strategy. I recognized much of this in what was mentioned during the day in Brussels, such as reading and writing skills, digital skills, cooperation between the various actors in the field of adult education and training, and the importance of having skills that are in demand in working life. I also heard other words that are well known from my own work at Skills Norway, such as problem solving, competence rather than knowledge, blended learning and just-in-time-learning.
What I found most interesting, and which I will bring further in my work with skills policy, is Mangez’ sociologic approach to education, which he linked to the perception of time: From a sociologic perspective, time is not something fix, but rather a social construction. The present is today narrower than earlier. People felt like time was running more slowly in earlier times than what we do today. The new perception of time changes everything, even also the education systems. Nobody knows what the future will be like, and we are living today in a great paradox: We have never had so much knowledge about everything, and at the same time, we have never been more uncertain about what will come next. We educate young people to professions that still do not exist. While the frame of the education systems earlier were the national states and the future represented progress, the frame of our time’s education is global and the future represents uncertainty.
Just because education in our time is global rather than limited to the national states, it is relevant to participate at education conferences in other countries. So I can recommend it! It is always useful to have a glance at oneself in the light of others. Moreover, my reply to the question in the title is that yes, we do put an effort to prepare vulnerable groups in the adult population potential challenges in the future in Norway as well.
Quite an elegant workshop room!