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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Setting the agenda for adult education in the UK

Language: EN

/epale/en/file/setting-agenda-adult-education-ukSetting the agenda for adult education in the UK

Setting the agenda for adult learning in the UK

Led by the European Commission, the European Agenda for Adult Learning (EAAL) does not just cover EU countries but includes Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Turkey. The rationale for the EAAL is the positive impact skills has on all levels of society across Europe. Whether the UK is part of the European Union or not, it still has a role to play in European adult education in sharing effective policy, practice and research.

In 2012, the Learning and Work Institute was appointed UK National Coordinator for the EAAL to work alongside 31 other countries. The aim was to have a strategic impact on adult learning policy development in Europe and across the UK. The work is jointly funded by the European Commission’s Education, Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency and the UK Government’s Department for Education (DfE). The activities aim to contribute to the European Agenda, by linking adult learning to wider socio-economic policy in the UK; raising awareness of the value of adult learning to UK citizens and increasing the participation of those with low levels of skills or less well qualified adults.

Adult Learning: Setting the Agenda

As part of the 2015-17 programme of work, we are undertaking an overarching strand of work that will result in a summative report, which will be presented at the ‘Adult Learning: Setting the Agenda’ conference in October, a joint event between the UK National Coordinator for the EAAL and EPALE UK. The report will bring together the latest evidence on the impact of adult learning on different policy areas. It will draw on evidence produced by the research and development work from our other strands of work, including the UK Impact Forums in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The overall aim of the work is to explore, examine and undertake research on the contribution that adult learning can make to different areas of policy in the UK, specifically health, work and communities.

When considering the role of adult learning, we are immediately faced with multiple definitions, contexts and understandings. It is something that is seen differently from country to country and from context to context. It embraces anyone who learns after the end of initial education (however long that may be) whether in a village hall, a local library, an adult education or outreach centre, a further education college, higher education institution or workplace. Its purposes are as wide-ranging as the venues including learning for pleasure and leisure; to develop a skill or interest; to gain employment; to change employment; to enhance and increase skills and knowledge in work and at any level from ‘beginner’ to ‘advanced’ post-doctoral study.

Such diversity of descriptions, definitions and understandings creates a challenge for audiences listening to or reading about adult learning, adult community learning, adult education or UNESCO’s ‘adult learning and education’. Internationally, adult education is recognised as a core component of lifelong learning. It denotes the entire body of organised learning processes, formal and non-formal, where those regarded as adults by society, develop and enrich their capabilities for living and working, both in their own interests and those of their communities and societies.

Whatever definition you use and wherever you work in UK adult learning we would like to hear from you. 

In the coming months in advance of the October conference, ‘Adult Learning: Setting the Agenda’, we will be presenting a series of think pieces on EPALE that introduces our themes of Health, Work and Communities and the contribution that adult learning can make to these specific policy agendas. 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below by registering or logging into your EPALE account or by joining the discussion on Twitter and Facebook by using the hashtag #settingagenda17.

Joyce Black

Assistant Director Research and Development

Learning and Work Institute

UK National Coordinator

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