21-23.11 2018 Transnational Cooperation Activity (TCA)
Contact Seminar on Improving Access, Participation and Quality in Adult Learning 21-23.11 2018 Luxembourg
The semnar was hosted by the Anefore organisation in co-op with the Serbian and Portuguese Erasmus national agencies. Anefore exists since 2007 and it is the national agency responsible for promoting European programmes on education and training in Luxembourg. The main goal of this TCA was to engage participants from all over Europe in an open dialogue to discuss and share knowledge, good practices and experiences related to the field of adult education, especially when targeting socially or educationally disadvantaged adults.
I was fortunate to be awarded a free place at the seminar after entering an online competition set by the Erasmus Plus national agency in Bonn. At short notice, i packed a toothbrush and made the 9 hour train journey across Germany to the small neighbouring country of Luxembourg.
I calculated there were approximately 50-60 partcipants, including invited experts and many Luxembourg and EU representatives, involved in a broad spectrum of adult education. The facilitator for the event Paul Guest (UK) possessed a disarming sense of humour, and infused a positive mixture of light showmanship into the proceedings, combined with an acute knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, which allowed him to be able to summarise the essence of the various inputs from guest speakers "planting seeds for collaborations and cooperations“. As guests, we were invited to play "Human Bingo" as a means for us to familiarise ourselves with each other and break the ice before getting down to business.
The official event report and the info slides that were presented during the seminar, can be seen in their entirety as attached pdf documents at the bottom of this article. Theres is also a link to seminar fotos (below). In this sense, i include only points and observations that were of a personal interest for me.
Welcoming introductions by Anefore representatives Eric Goeren and Marguerite Krier included the following interesting basic points:
- 70 million adults in EU struggle with basic literacy
- the emphasis is on „high quality learning“
- the seminar includes a variety of organisations on different levels
- the seminar was aimed to foster transnational cooperations
Master of ceremonies Mr Guest presented 3 x international expert speakers which was preceded by a lighthearted group breathing exercise (see foto) as a means for the group to focus and come together. Denise Shannon (IRE), as first invited speaker for the seminar, gave a talk on "Barriers to Adult Learning and Policy Discourse". Ms Shannon is the publisher of a white paper which tracks the changes in the official language used to define education which is informed by her previous work in the Erasmus plus funding predecessor Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme and she refenced the academics Paulo Freire and Antonio Gransci two of most cited figures in the debate on radical education. In her adress to the seminar, Ms Shannon explained that the discourse has changed from „lifelong learning“ to „skills“ which shows a shift from education that benefits society to education that benefits the economy. Lamenting this shift in emphasis, was a recurring point in informal conversations amongst various guests, as this policy shift seems somewhat at odds with the reality of a decreasing labour market in an increasingly accelerated and automated world of (e.g.) A.I. and also, begs the question: is it not more productive to empower people to to live creative and fulfilling lives without the stigma or "carrot and stick" of out dated work ethics? (see also the argument for universal income).
Anna Ana Rita Alves Lourenço (POR) representing the organisation „Proximar“, identfied the differences that seperate child and adult learning
- Motivation: intrinsic (it is interesting) extrinsic (leads to specific outcomes)
- Ana identified demotivators for extrinsic learning for low skilled adults
- How teachers / trainers can motivate low skilled adults to learn
- Case studies in prisons: motivating prison staff equally important as motivating the inmates
see the Erasmus Plus project: entresistemas.eu
Aleksandra Kozyra from the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), based in Brussels, with 133 member organisations across Europe, gave a talk on the inclusion of vulnerable groups "Outreach, Empowerment and Diversity" (OED) which makes policy recommendations to educators and which is also a project that comes out of the Grundtvig initiative (also the stepping stone for Unter Druck / Czentriufuga into the world of adult education funding). oed-networks.eu
La Vernada Adult School (Barcelona)´ adopts a peer to peer approach, encouraging learners to become teachers and include them in planning, (what we in Berlin describe as „Each One Teach One“).
Objectif Ville (BE) whereby former learners are involved in classes.
The point was raised: How to reach target audiences and make them interesting offers? An example was citied via the successful project „German Park“, whereby people were approached in the park and offered the chance to learn German. As testimony to the fact that stimulating learning/teaching environments are critical „German in the Hospital“ did not work at all. In another example from Manchester, going into pubs proved to be a good methoid to attract older adults. Allow time for getting to know people, go where they are and give them what they want!
Later that day the group were given a fascinating city tour with Hungarian born "George". What became evident was that Luxembourg is an intercultural land of foreigners, which is rich both economically (over 150 banks in a city of just 114,00) as well as in history. There are three languages, Luxemburgisch, German and French, and this country of just 576,000 is one of the three official capitals of the European Union as well as being the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority in the EU. We recognised there were no guards on either the royal palace or the parliament building which was a curious contradiction to the large „lego“ style anti- teror concrete blocks (à la Berlin) which were placed around one of the main christmas markets. Luxembourg has an openly gay Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, who is also an Erasmus veteran. Also interesting to learn, the minmum wage is 2000 euros per month, 3% of which goes to medical insurance which also covers a spouse and children. Rent is expensive and many commute to the city to work, including many who come from neighbouring Belgium, Germany and France. Despite the affluence it was evident during our city walk that there are many homeless people in the inner city.
seminar warm up
The second day of the seminar was allocated for expert speakers from Luxembourg, who then helped out as facilitators for smaller group discussions and networking sessions, which participants could jump in or out of, depending on their particular interests. Although the general emphasis was on formal/unformal adult education, there was a palpable sense that „out of the box“ informal learning, was also considered as a valid means to an end. During the table discussions, a small group of us presented a new Erasmus Plus project idea which was born out of the seminar: Together with informatics teacher Willem de Meyer (BE) and Jaume Gomila Saura who is chairman of Adult Education Schools in Minorca, we agreed to work together on a new Erasmus Plus adult learning partnership application for March 2019: „Energy“ (N.R.G.). The key actions of our project will be "working with authentic tasks" within the framework a KA2 "Exchange of good practices" application with a special attention also to cultural heritage. We even have a website! http://nrgproject.wordpress.com
All New! the Energy Team
I also had the opportunity to talk and exchange possible future exchange ideas with Jimmy Corneille, project coordinator for refugee projects in Luxembourg at Léieren & Savoir , as well as Rosa Chimenti from Caritas/Luxembourg; Chantal Fendel from the Luxembourg Department of Education and Alzira Mendes who is Na-bibb project officer in Portugal, as well as many other interesting informal chats with seminar participants from across Europe.
Otherwise, here are a few points and "notes to self" regarding terminology that i picked up over the two days
- skills forecasting – what will be the necessary skills for the future
- coach posture - referring to educators acting as a coaches rather than the classic teacher - pupil (hierachic) relationship, which is espescially important for adult learners in order to earn trust and instill confidence .
- validating competances / recognition of skills and learning are regarded as important in formal and unformal learning models e.g. certification, open badges and competance cards
- "know thyself" teacher self evaluation is an important ongoing process of reflection as well as addressing the metaperspective (what the teacher believes the student thinks about the teacher). Be pro-active, seek new ideas for your servce and understand the art of persuading people that they do not already know as much as they think they do.
adult learning funding initiatives (see slideshow PDF in attachment below)
fonds soziale european
european agenda for adult learning
The closing speech was left to Luxembourg nbibb director Christine Pegel , newly returned from Brussels, with the postive news that the budget for adult learning has been increased (signalising that the EU takes this seriously). For me the experience was very valuable and helped to sharpen my understanding of adult learning terminology and trending concepts. Moreover, talking with various guests at the seminar, was in itself a great educator. My only criticis that the second days attendance was smaller and less focused, due to constraints of people having to leave early, as well as there being a general preoccupation with catching return flights and trains. This was a pity as this second day was more focused on networking, partner finding and general exchanges between participants. Lastly, many thanks to the Doris Mulombe for her help and smooth event coordination as well as the entire Luxembourg support team.