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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



EPALE discussion: How to ensure optimal inclusion in adult learning on the provision and policy levels?

by Simon BROEK

/epale/en/file/inclusion-adult-learningInclusion in Adult Learning

Inclusion in Adult Learning


As part of our March focus, EPALE is organising a written discussion on how to ensure inclusion in adult learning and what makes for an inclusive adult learning provision.

The discussion will take place on this page on 22 March at 10:00 CET and will be moderated by EPALE Thematic Coordinator Simon Broek and Ellen Boeren from Edinburgh University. Don’t miss the opportunity to share your views and experiences with the EPALE community on any of the following topics:

10:00-12:30 CET

Solving inequality on the level of adult learning provision:

  1. What types of inequality do you see related to adult learning (educational background, social status, age, digital divide, migration status etc.)?
  2. What do adult learning professionals need to know and do to offer inclusive provision?
  3. How should inclusive adult learning be organised and offered?

Discussion left open during lunch interval

13:30-16:00 CET

Solving inequality on the policy level:

  1. How to ensure that adult learning systems are optimally accessible for those who need them the most?
  2. What barriers exist and how can they be overcome?
  3. What recommendations would you give to policy makers who design and implement adult learning policies related to the Upskilling Pathways initiative?

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  • FRANK HAENDELER's picture
    Like Ellen, Maria Manuela and Christine already talked about  the difficulties of entering adult education systems for people from foreign countries or lower educational backgrounds, the need of an alternative direct approach and also the creative way to teach could be a bridge to overcome the mentioned difficulties. In Germany there are many free educational courses offered for people in difficult life situations, but unfortunately many times it is problematic to reach participants and also to stimulate them for a regular continuous visit of the offered educational programs. 
    I think we have to think about alternative ways of reaching people that are in need of educational progress and also ask us those people, what they are really looking for. Especially related to our work with refugees, the question; What do they individually really want and also what way they would like to be taught are for importance. 
  • Ellen Boeren's picture

    Dear participants,

    Many thanks to everyone who has participated in this very interesting event. I hope you will join again for a future event and I look forward to interacting with you again.

    For both the morning and afternoon sessions, you can find a recap of the main issues discussed.

    Thanks again.

    All the best,


  • Andreas Koreimann's picture
    Hi everyone, it was very interesting to follow the discussion and get a lot of new ideas and views. Thank all of you! For those who want to join our EPALE conference "Upskilling Pathways - Equal Opportunities & Participation through Adult Education", we invite all of you to be part of the event, discuss, connect with national and international players and create new projects. One aim of the conference is to create ideas and networking pools in which initiatives and projects from different European countries present, practice their methods and network with each other. There will be projects from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and many more. Save the date, the final program and the invitation in our NSS Group are coming soon. Until this happens, take a look on our events from 2016 and 2017. Nice greetings from Vienna
  • Ellen Boeren's picture
    It is important that policy makers focus on adult learning policies, not only on education and learning in relation to initial education. Nowadays, too many adults are still missing out to let the focus on adult education fade away! Policies need to focus on making it feasible for adult education providers to offer more individualised and flexible support. One size fits all approaches are unlikely to work. Policy making should be bottom up, not top down.

    Taking into account the voices of the voices of adults and potential learners will be helpful in designing sound policy measures, in cooperation with a range of relevant stakeholders. The informational barrier has been recognised by many of us. National policy makers should be encouraged in investing in databases that clearly outline and provide details about existing learning provisions for adults in their countries. Adult learning policies need to keep a focus on basic skills support, which features in the Upskilling Pathways programme. It is indeed vital that this focus does not get lost and that we return to a situation where adult learning is not only about vocationalism.

    It is important to recognise some adults will need more basic support. Policy makers need to understand that online and distance education might be too challenging for those who lack basic digital and literacy skills, and who are not used to self-directed learning. Additional policy measures targeted towards those in rural areas need to be put in place. Europe might profit from further unification in relation to validation and recognition of learning, as featured in the Upskilling Pathways programme. Continued encouragement for learner mobility would be appreciated.
  • Maria Manuel Mano Casal Ribeiro's picture
    the lack of interest and motivation is one of the crises consequence, how can people with low qualifications, without earning a salary, unemployed, have the motivation to engage in a qualification pathway, if sometimes they can't see that even with that their future might be brighter? it is complicated, and we feel this in adult training a lot.
  • Christine Bertram's picture


    I'm not sure it is truly a lack of interest... it's probably the opposite: there's a plethora of competing interests. I've done a research project in the past (it is within the UK context), but it gives some insights over those competing interests that you people are faced with and that you have also observed in your daily work.

  • Jo Fletcher-Saxon's picture
    I work in a college with an adult skills budget.  This funding stream can only be used in certain restricted ways on approved qualifications.  We have recently offered some short free courses which we are covering the costs of as a college as we are unable to offer those small steps into learning that some others can and used to be available everywhere.  I also find the heavy focus on maths and English is actually a barrier in itself.  When we offered short vocational courses and short creative courses - we were over run with calls.  Many of these people would benefit from some updating of English or maths skills and digital skills - but they were not knocking on our door for those - they needed a way in.  I also find the assumption that updating these skills needing to lead to a qualification is also a barrier for some.  For some, the qualification is less important that the learning.  I do believe people should get credit for learning but the qualification element may also make some learning less attractive.  The qualification is only vital if they are using it to access another programme. I have very mixed views on this!  We also find some people at level 2 who are over 25 in the UK are a little trapped - if they are ready for level 3 they can get an advanced learner loan but there are less options at level 2 and courses come with a hefty price tag.  There are of course some providers that have alternative funding which does allow for some informal learning steps but this often seems precarious and is not widely available.  So in terms of policy, there needs to be a simplified, sustainable and well understood provision of adult learning opportunities across throughout the UK, which links/maps to EU provision, rather than it being a lottery depending on where you live and if you have heard about what is on offer or whether you are deemed to be a "target group
  • Maria Manuel Mano Casal Ribeiro's picture
    We work at lisbon council that can provide several free courses to citizens, this gives to people with low qualifications the opportunity to gain several skills and competences in digital, numeracy, citizenship etc, a kind of social service in more organizations can be an option also.
  • Christine Bertram's picture
    I love your point about how people used to acquire the maths and English skills through creative and vocational courses... I've had some discussions on how basic skills can be taught in a "not obvious" way (e.g. crafts, sports, community groups, choirs...) - and this is recognised in some E+ projects but frequently not beyond and funding for anything beyond a pilot phase is very difficult to come by.
  • Ellen Boeren's picture
    austerity clearly visible in UK adult education indeed