From education to employment

Bridging the International Adult Education Gap in Hull

From across the continent, leaders and learners in adult education gathered to share their experiences and knowledge of the sector in Hull last week in this year’s Grundtvig Learning Partnerships Conference entitled “Bridges to Co ““ operative Adult Learning in Europe”.

With events designed to encourage awareness of diversity and the need to share knowledge going hand in hand with cultural events featuring the foods and customs of individual countries, the conference was sponsored and organised in part by the British Council, with the kind co ““ operation of Hull City Council. The conference came to the United Kingdom to coincide with the British presidency of the European Union (EU) this year.

The Grundtvig Programme

The programme draws its name from Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig, a Danish clergyman and writer who is commonly viewed to be the founder of what is a Nordic tradition of lifelong learning. He established a network of folk schools during his life (he lived from 1783 until 1872) and based them upon the notion that education should be something available throughout a person’s life, embracing citizenship and personal development as well as the more mundane issues of skills training.

The Grundtvig programme targets adult education staff and learners throughout Europe, and supports a range of international projects, including various training courses and networks. The activities range from adult learners and educators across the continent working together in learning partnerships to the development of transnational teaching materials in adult education. These projects are supported at different levels by Grundtvig.

Grundtvig One, or European co ““ operation projects, enable the development of specific training courses within partnerships, for the use of adult educators across Europe. Level two, Learning Partnerships, represents small ““ scale projects allowing adult learners and trainers to work with partners on areas of shared interest. Training grants represent level Three, available to teachers and trainers working with adult learners and can help with allowing them to study / work shadow in another country. And finally, level Four, Networks, is available for networks of organisations with previous Grundtvig experience.

Open to New Ideas

Visiting the conference, a number of elements of the delegates really caught the attention. One was the broad range of ages and experiences being brought to the floor and shared, enriching the domestic opportunities both in Britain and across Europe. The sharing of culinary delights clearly served to break the ice as well as the bread, with people from different cultures and backgrounds sharing their thoughts, jokes, hopes and fears for the future.

The use of “Open Spaces”, a conference and idea ““ sharing model that brings people together in a more relaxed and open format, allowed the conference to share their ideas on the issues facing further integration and moving forward in common educational goals, and clearly showed the willingness of so many to look beyond the small trees in their plot and focus on the vast forest of education in Europe. Subjects such as inclusion for disabled students, and the problems faced with racism and sexism were just some of those discussed and presented to the conference.

But the overriding feeling that anyone would have felt attending the conference would have been one of awe, as the sheer depth of commitment to the cause of adult education from so many, both learners and educators, demonstrates once again the quantity and quality of work being undertaken. In an era when funding for adult education looks to be set on a declining slope, this dedication and devotion to the importance of lifelong learning is both necessary and refreshing.

Jethro Marsh

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