Adult Educators – Challenges at European and global levels - conference 2010



Europe needs a core definition of competences for the adult educators. But what do we know of professionals in Europe today? And how do we qualify people in the future? 

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein has since 1991 been serving as director of the German Institute for Adult Education (DIE) in Bonn. He stated in his lecture at the Professionalization of Adult Educators Conference , that even though everybody in Europe understands that adult educators is education of adults, the definition and the idea behind differs totally in the different countries.

“We have to be very careful. Ten years ago, we had a shift in paradigm from teaching  to learning. This meant a shift in looking at education from the institutional and teaching perspective to the learners perspective.   Learning does not happen in an intended and institutional way without teachers. And teachers have to be qualified to teach. Unfortunately we have a lot of European discussions on needed qualifications of the teachers. Teaching and learning are equally important. We must not forget that.

Being an adult educator is a very heterogeneous job with different kind of work domains and different kind of institutions. Beside all of this we have a lot informal learning. 80% of what we learn, we learn in a informal way and only 20% of the learning are in institutions. But we talk mainly about institutions. This is the part of adult learning we can influence and somehow combine ways of learning.

Challenges, needs and demands

Professor Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein pointed out the challenges of Adult educators: “There is a need for more education in natural sciences, but we have too few people to teach in that area. Then we need to develop the education in to shorter pieces or in to little islands so everybody has a chance to learn in an informal and formal way. We also need a system of acknowledgement of the competences achieved elsewhere in an informal way.  There is also the matter of financing adult education? Everywhere in Europe we talk about the necessity of adult education, but the fact is, that we have a reduction in adult education, so there is a gap between political intentions and the financing of adult education. Finally we have a discussion of quality of provisions and professionalization of staff.

What do we know of professionals in Europe today? Professor Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein asked. About 1/3 of the adult educators are fully employed, but it is varying from country to country. We have high diversity in adult education. We have totally different self understanding;   teachers, moderators, facilitators, trainers and animators. A majority of adult educators do not have pedagogical qualifications. We do not have barriers of access, everybody can teach adults with a very few exceptions. We have in all countries precarious employments, a lot of people live in a very low income level, and the image of an adult educator are not high. and the attractivity of the job are not high either in spite of the fact tact that many people are extremely engaged in the work.

Today adult educators work in a lot of different areas and workplaces. Small and media adult education institutions, enterprises, associations and organizations like trade unions, as freelancers.  Most adult educators combine a lot of activities. They have to combine teaching with activities such as management, counseling, program planning, support and services, media construction there is no adult educator that is not combining many of these activities. Only people working part time stick to teaching, but the professionals are normally combining these activities.

In his presentation (indsæt link) Professor Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein listed the competences for adult teachers in UK , in France, and  in Germany and he concluded, that if you compare the competences, you will see, that the countries are addressing different things. “We will not come to an overall list of competences in Europe. We need a core definition of competences and some variations in different culturel context,” he said and asked: How do we qualify people? 

Professor Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein concluded that all the people working in the field of higher education want to have a standard of competences.  That means to raise the level of competences and to have a standard. We want to have a higher level of teaching competences. We also want an improvement of jobpositions and recognition of the job we do. Higher standards of AE-educators competencies, higher level of teaching competencies, improvement of job-positions, recognition and payment.

Challenges of the future

In the future we need a holistic approach. We need to look at all the elements together. We also need political agreement on needed competencies in the field of adult education,  Definition of AE-“Core“ what is in the center of adult education in the matter of competences,  We need collaboration of associations  (and universities),  We also need to develop an evidence base, empirical research so that we will to be able to act politically,. Finally we have to define standards for adult educators.
Professor Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein ended his lecture by saying: “When we have had the political debate, we can develop offers and provisions on academic and further education level.”

Worth to look at

Q-Act: Qualifying adult learning in Europe, 2008
 ALPINE, European project, report 2009
 ASEM: Teachers and Trainers in Adult Education and Lifelong
 Learning, European and Asian Perspectives, book, 2010
 Flexipath (flexible professionalisation pathways for adult  educators between the 6th and the 7th level of EQF),   European project, till autumn 2010
 European Master in LLL (Copenhagen a. o.), EMAE (Essen a. o.)
 AGADE (A Good Adult Educator in Europe) European project, 2006
 PROSAL: Professional Administrative Support for  Adults‘ Learning, european project 2008
 TEVAL: Evaluation Model for Teaching and Training Competencies, European project, till autumn 2010
VINEPAC: Validation of Informal and Non-formal Competencies   of Adult Educators, European project, 2009
 Professionalisation in Adult Education – International Perspectives, International Course of Lecture 2008/2009, University of DuisburgEssen

Professor Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Ekkehard Nuissl von Rein
Deutsches Institut für Erwachsenenbildung (DIE)
German Institute for Adult Education
Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 38
D-53113 Bonn
T +49 (0)228 3294-100
F +49 (0)228 3294-398