Europe in a state of flux
Europe has extended over the last years. A lot of new member states were added to the community, so we see much more variety in the European community and that also affects the scenery of adult education. In Europe we see a number of concerns fx we see an enormously growth of knowledge production. The challenge to coop with all that is enormous. How can we possibly be aware of this ever growing of knowledge and use and be in the lead of it? What can we do to improve adult education?
Dr. Jaap van Lakerveld (to the left in the photo) works at Educational Research and Development Centre, also called Plato, at the University of Leiden in Holland. He has participated in a number of European projects, that led to gain some insight in what happened in Europe. Local Learning Centres and Partnerships in Europe, Adult Learning Professionals in Europe (ALPINE) , Vocational educators in Europe (Eurotrainer and Cedefop), Self evaluation in adult life long learning (SEALLL), Mentoring in Teacher education (MINT), Supporting and Promoting European Citizenship In Adult Learning (SPECIAL), Contextual Learning In Management And Teaching in Europe (CLIMATE).
The digital divide – a concern
At the Professionalization of Adult Educators Conference in Malmø in March 2010 Dr. Jaap van Lakerveld mentioned a number of concerns to identify the complex in which we are working as adult educators. There is a huge number of new technologies. Just look a few years back at your own professional life at how simple the tools were and how soon these things developed in to better and more adequate tools, but also more complicated tools. You really had to adapt to those tools and some people do that better than others. The concern of the digital divide. A term used to indicate the risk of some people being in charge and in the lead and understanding the whole new computer technology while others fall back and is a new division in society. Now we not only have a divison of rich and poor but also the ones that know and the ones that don’t know as far as the digital things are concerned.
The challenges and benefits of mobility
We also see a lot of people from outside Europe coming to Europe and this leads to a huge mobility within Europe. People either integrate or have some problems of integration, but that is another concern that mobility is not as big, as we would like it to be. If we would mingle a bit more and exchange our expertice a bit more and use each others resources in a better way. That would lift Europe more. That is the challenges and benfits of mobility.
Multiculturalism and integration in many countries are still a problematic issue and adult education has a role to play there.
The aging population
Another concern is the aging population. The composition of the population changes and more elderly people are included in the population. Fewer people have to earn the living for an ever growing group. And how do we educate this large group? How do we keep them active in lifelong learning?
Global competition and global warming
Economical instablility and unemployment is another challenge we are facing I Europe. We are facing this challenge because Europe has a new position in the global competition. The position of Europe is no longer self understood. You see economical powers rise elsewhere, China, Brazil, India. The whole balance of power is changing. This affects the education.
The environmental issues like global warming, pollution, make us focus on, how we can live in a more responsible way and how we cannot exploit our resources and therefore education has to play a part here.
The five pro’s
Dr. Jaap van Lakerfeld then talked about “the five pro’s” to improve adult education.
Promotion. Adult education sometimes have problems in marketing itself in having optimal outreach and making it clear to people that it is beneficial to participate. We tend to wipe ourself out. If we ask people: “Can you tell me something about your job as an adult educator? Adult educator? I did not know, I was an adult educator. I always I was an artist or I always felt I was a technician. But now, that you mention it. I am an adult educator.” So, Dr. Jaap van Lakerveld, said, it is very important to promote adult education, not only towards potential t target groups but also among yourself.
Profession. We need to focus on the profession. What is the identity of our profession? We are adult educators. What is it? We need to do more research and we need to declare adult education a discipline. Adult education being so relevant and a top priority in Europe - giving the aging population even more so, should be in a prominent place at the universities. It is vital to make adult education a clear and concise discipline, to organize it and to organize the adult educators, so we are identifiable in society. It is also important to organize professionally around particular interests for instance unions.
Professional development. Consists of proper initial training of teachers and trainers, and continuing professional development, which includes inservice learning.
Programs. If we want to have good adult education, that is visible, that is of high quality, then we also need god programs. So we need good curriculum development, good course construction, good learning environments, good learning materials. The scenery of adult education is so diversed that we still see a lot of subsectors within adult education, where things are much more improvised, so if you want to bring adult education to a higher level, it is also important to pay attention to outlooks of things, to the quality of the hardware.
Provision. People like smooth provision, they like clear schedules, transparent programs that are flexible, that are modulated, the right appropriate methods, smooth procedures. That is also a dimension that is important to raise the image and outlooks and reputation of adult education.
Challenges for adult educators
Finally Dr. Jaap van Lakerfeld talked about the challenges for adult educators. He started by stating, that widen the didactive repertoire is one of the main challenges. Another challenge is, that if we want to make the turn from teaching to learning, we need to be a aware that we need to act as learners in a modern way. That means, that they communicate, seek and search and connect and that they construct new ways of learning. They should make optimal use of computers and internet resources to fight the digital divide. They should develop diagnostics, counseling and coaching competences in order to be able to care in the countries, where it is relevant. Adult educators should organize them self as professionals. Also adult educators should have a permanent learning. Finally we should establish a research database to allow for evidensbased work.
Networks to support trainers in Europe: www.trainersineurope.org
Jaap van Lakerveld
Is the director of PLATO, an independent research centre established by the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He has been the director of this centre since 1986. His field of expertise is learning. It includes learning within educational settings as well as learning of professionals in work environments. Throughout his career he worked as a researcher and consultant in inservice teacher education, vocational and adult education and learning, and human resources development. In this last area he completed a PhD study.
In the last few years he was involved in a series of European studies and network activities in adult life lifelong learning, vocational education and corporate education.
Beside being the director of PLATO, he taught at the university and in a teacher training institute. In his work he engaged in a variety of international projects with fellow researchers from many other institutions in Europe and beyond.
For three years he held the position of chairman if the Research and Development Centre of Inservice education of teachers of the Association of Teacher Education in Europe (ATEE), of which he is a long standing member.