Workshop 4 Policy – praxis
Proximity to power and equality are characteristics of the Nordic societies and organisations. In order to maintain the welfare system it is essential to apply the experiences of organisations and educators as a resource for policy development within the sector of adult education. The workshop provides Nordic and international examples that shed light on how practice has contributed to the development of strategies and policies enhancing the access to and the quality of adult learning.
Report fram session 4A:
Workshop 4A Policy – Praxis
Berni Brady, Irish National Adult Learning Organisation (AONTAS), Ireland
Gudrún Eyjólfsdottir, Education and Training Service Centre (ETSC), Iceland
Halldór Grönvold, Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASI), Iceland
In her presentation, Berni Brady gave the attendants of workshop 4A a concrete example on how her organization, AONTAS, has been able to bring learners, policy makers and education providers together to discuss the new education and training strategy in Ireland. The organization created a safe and neutral space for discussions in which the learners were able to express their experiences and requirements regarding education and training while the policy makers had a chance to learn about and understand those for whom they make decisions and policy. Berny says that the key success in this process was to find out the common core for all the stakeholders - the learner!
According to Berni, the lessons learnt from the process are:
- it is important to build good relations with decision makers
- be clear about what you want
- learn about the system (who makes decisions, how they are made etc.)
- politicians will act on matters that affect their voters (voters matter to politicians)
- work cross-sectorally (not all eggs in one basket)
- use a variety of tactics
- be prepared to use other language (listen to how your issue is being discussed)
- be prepared to change tactics (have a plan but be flexible)
- be persistent: think long term
- be prepared to compromise
Gudrún Eyjólfsdottir’s and Halldór Grönvold’s joint presentation, too, focused on learners and thus offered a fluent Islandic complement to Berni Brady’s presentation. In Gudrún’s and Halldór’s work the target group and the scope are people on the labour market that have not finished secondary school. In Iceland, they have found and tried three (inter linked) paths on how to help this group:
- courses (differenct approach, timeframe and methods from secondary schools)
- recognition of prior learning
The challenges they have encountered are attraction of academic studies rather than vocational and lack of recognition within the formal system as well as need for an adult approach. As a response to the challenges the cooperation with secondary schools has been improved and clearer pathways have been built. The role of counselors is regarded as important as they are the ones who have personal contacts to learners and so they know what the learners are wishing for.
Two bridges were seen as important:
- bridge between adult education and secondary education / formal school system
- bridge between economy / companies and labour market
A third bridge was added to the list from the audience:
- bridge between ministries
Theretical introduction : Berni Brady
Bernadette Maria Brady, B.A., M. Ed, Cert TESOL, has been Director of AONTAS, the Irish National Adult Learning Organisation since 1993. A graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast , National University of Ireland/Maynooth and University College Dublin she has worked in the adult education sector for over 30 years. Before taking up her position as Director of AONTAS, she worked as Director of the Dublin Adult Literacy Scheme for 13 years. She was a founder member of the National Adult Literacy Agency and during her career has campaigned consistently for the right of adults to learn and for governments to invest in adult and community education. She has represented the voice and cause of adult learners at home and internationally for many years and has contributed extensively to the development of the Irish adult education service. She has a wide range of experience including teaching/training, strategic management, research and advocacy. In April 2012 she received an Honorary Master’s degree from the Open University in recognition of her services to adult and community education. In 2013 Bernadette was appointed to the Board of SOLAS , the new Irish Further Education and Training a Government body set up to integrate further education and training in Ireland for the first time.She has also served on many government and non-government working groups and committees. She is a passionate believer in the power of lifelong learning and the right of every adult to quality learning.
Chair: Ingibjörg Guðmundsdóttir
Ingibjörg Elsa Guðmundsdóttir is the director of The Education and Training Service Centre in Iceland since its start in 2003 and has worked in adult education since 1985. Among other things, she has been teaching adults, participated in Nordic and European projects, served on the various boards and committees and participated in numerous working groups in the area.
Presentation 1: Guðrún Eyjólfsdóttir
Guðrún Eyjólfsdóttir has since 2007 worked as a senior adviser on education at the SA Business Iceland and as such been on the board of ETSC since then. Gudrun was formerly an adviser at the Ministry of Fisheries and served as its representative in the Icelandic Embassy in Brussels for three years. Prior to that she was an journalist at the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service for almost a decade. Gudrun has, on the board of the ETSC and in other fora on education, been especially interested in the development of recognition of prior learning.
Presentation 2: Halldór Grönvold
Halldór Grönvold Deputy General Secretary, Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASI).Head of Department on Industrial Relations and Social policy. Member of the board of The Education and Training Service Centre. Halldór has represented the trade union movement in dialogue and policy-making on educational and training issues for more than 20 years. Halldór is also a part-time Lecturer on Industrial Relations at the University of Iceland.
New Education and Training Strategy in Ireland
Currently major structural changes are being made in the area of adult learning in Ireland where for the first time in the history of the state, government policy is focused on streamlining adult education and vocational training within an integrated Further Education and Training Strategy. This presents major challenges on a number of fronts as the strategy seeks to combine two sectors which have very different histories, ethos, status and funding arrangements. The government has passed legislation to establish a new Further Education and Training Authority, SOLAS, with the responsibility for co-ordinating, funding and monitoring further education and training which will be delivered by 16 local Education and Training Boards. These Boards have been established as a result of the amalgamation of 33 local education authorities and the abolition of the State Training Agency FAS, bringing all further education and training under the remit of one local provider. The structural changes are taking place in the context of Ireland emerging from the economic crash and the agenda laid down by EU/IMF funders who bailed out the country after the collapse of the banking system.
Focus on capacity building
The development of the five year Further Education and Training strategy which is currently being finalised after an extensive consultation process has once more sparked a debate about the purpose of learning, what it is, how we describe it, what its outcomes are or should be, and how those outcomes can be measured. The debate is not new. At its core is the question about whether the purpose of education is to produce compliant, responsible, skilled and hard-working citizens or is it to develop our capacity to think, to imagine, to create and transform our society. Can it embrace all of these things and how do we find a balance. In the current Irish economic climate the emphasis on economic recovery and getting people back to work are paramount and many fears have been expressed by those within the adult learning sector about the possibility of losing the kind of provision that has essentially addressed the social purpose of learning.
Consultations across the sectors
The consultation process for the new strategy has involved bringing together a wide range of stakeholders from across the spectrum of vocational training, formal and non-formal adult education, higher education, employers and business, trades unions, non-government agencies and key government departments. Each of these stakeholders has its own interests, experience, perceptions and language. The challenge has been to find a common core while respecting the differing stances and drawing on the key models of best practice from all sectors.
Learners’ needs are essential
AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, as an NGO with no vested interest in provision has been able to take a broad overview and act in a broker role bringing together the different interest groups in a neutral space, allowing them to debate the issues and offer concrete proposals. We have also supported a Community education Network which is a platform for non-formal adult education providers, bringing their concerns to the table and advocating successfully for them to be included in the new legislation. But perhaps the key success has been to find the common core for all the stakeholders and that is the adult learner. By employing strategies to find out, listen to and focus on the needs of the learner then we can find the answers to all our questions and plan for services which respond to their individual needs and those of the economy and society as a whole.
AONTAS has successfully brought together learners and policy/decision makers in safe and neutral spaces which have allowed learners to articulate their experiences and requirements of the education and training systems, and allowed policy/decision makers to learn about and understand those for whom they are making decisions and policy. This has been a very powerful and empowering experience for all. At this conference, if appropriate I can offer examples of practice at a number of levels in working collaboratively with key stakeholders towards a common purpose:-
- Learner engagement
- Using a network for advocacy
- Working at Advisory Committee and Board level.
The Education and Training Service Centre in Iceland
The Education and Training Service Centre has since it was established in 2003 worked with developing adult learning I Iceland in accordance with the service contract with The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. The Centre was established as three part collaboration between the social partners and the government. The objective is to enable individuals who have not graduated from the upper secondary level to obtain an education and improve their position in the labour market and in society in general. In this workshop we will hear how policy shapes praxis, and learn about the perspective from the Labour organisations and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers point of view why cooperation on this matter is of great importance.