Good Morning, Europe!

29 February 2016

When I think about why it’s important to learn from our colleagues in Europe, one thing springs to mind.  Mornings.  It doesn’t matter how much passion I have for work, learning or life I‘ve never been someone who enjoys an early start.  But, as a child, I went to school in Germany where they start class at 8am, so early mornings became part of my routine. 

It’s strange, thinking back to those days.  The cultural differences in learning didn’t stop with the early mornings and, unlike the classes I’d left in England, I found myself sat behind a table, learning times tables by rote and reciting German poetry (I can still remember some of them by heart today).  Education, despite having the same goals and desired outcomes, was a very different thing in 80s Germany than it was in England, but the experience was not a bad one – I saw effective and ineffective practices on both sides of the North Sea.  So, perhaps, it is no wonder that the cultural differences between adult education practices vary across the borders too.

Despite these differences, there’s an awful lot we can learn from each other.  Like in England, much of Europe has the urgent need to equip adults with the skills they need to participate and remain economically active.  There is much to learn from approaches used by grassroots Danish Folkehøjskolen as they have much to learn from us in terms of our work influencing adult learning policy or pioneering online education.  We also have common issues, such as addressing the learning and employment needs of the migrant workforce, working with an aging population and addressing the challenges of environmental changes.  Things have changed drastically since my European experiences in the 1980s, but the importance of understanding how our differences can complement our development remains the same.

That’s why our close partner The European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) recently launched their Manifesto for Adult learning in the 21st Century, a document that lays down their vision of cross border lifelong learning needs.  To help address these needs they turned to the AE-Pro project, an online training platform we’ve been working with them on since 2014.  In that time over 350 adult educators from across Europe have participated in nine months of free online learning, exchanging ideas and practice.  The sessions have been incredibly diverse; we’ve outlined our work in England with Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Festival of Learning; Germany have taught us about their work dealing with migrant issues; and Sweden taught us about civic engagement.  Now, EAEA are going to run the training again, linking the outcomes to their manifesto – a training course that builds directly on the diversity of adult education in Europe to create outcomes that will benefit lifelong learners right across the continent.

Learning and Work Institute like to practice what we preach, so we’re driving forward the digital learning agenda internationally, meaning an online course that can be completed in your own time, with the exception of a few lunchtime webinars to bring the groups together. What’s more the course is free and you don’t have to complete the sessions you don’t think are important – you just get involved where it benefits you.  The only catch is you need to register before 10 March, 2016 ready for the training to begin a week later. 

We hope that the rise of an international community of adult educators is just one of the benefits online self-directed learning will bring.  That and a chance to avoid early mornings.  Have I mentioned I hate mornings?