Launching EPALE – and learning to pronounce it

The EPALE launch conference in Brussels this week was a significant event for adult education professionals and policy makers across Europe. EPALE is the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe. Discussing its pronunciation was one of the day’s ice-breakers in a large multi-lingual gathering, with general acceptance of “Ee-pail”, “Ay-pal”, “Ay-pal-ay”, and other variations. Each of us can choose whichever sounds right to us. There’s probably a metaphor there somewhere.

epale_tree_2

The well-attended event was a chance for lively face-to-face discussion and learning about the work done so far on developing the platform and for setting the scene for further long-term collaboration and EPALE’s evolution. The mixture of well-paced presentations was entertaining, informative and challenging.

Following a brief introduction by Brian Holmes, the European Commission’s Director for Education, the Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), Tibor Navracsics was the day’s first contributor. He is the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.

Tibor Navracsics addresses the Conference

Tibor Navracsics addresses the Conference

Pointing out that it is 50 years since the first collective European actions for adult learning, he made three key observations about community learning:

  • In terms of citizenship, it is central to peace, solidarity and democracy.
  • It has a vital role in culture, including activities in museums, art galleries and libraries.
  • It addresses issues arising from great demographic changes in Europe, including ageing societies.

He talked of the role of adult and inter-generational learning to enhance digital skills for retired people and the young unemployed, citing the need to deal with online tax and insurance processes, telemedicine and other tasks that depend increasingly on digital skills.

He commended the launch of EPALE to the audience saying that it’s,”by you for you”, before concluding that we are.”stronger and smarter together”.

Michel Servos was the next speaker. He is the European Commission Director General: Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. He spoke about the decline of low-skilled jobs and the emergence of new jobs requiring more sophisticated skills. He observed that skills in managing transition are more important than ever as the concept of a single career for life is being replaced by a series of careers throughout a longer working life-span.

Michel Servoz

Michel Servoz

He said that these circumstances place adult learning and training at the heart of the European agenda and mean that the time is right for EPALE as a new and different approach to collaboration. He described EPALE as, “not just a platform but a partnership – a cornerstone for exchanges.”

Alan Tuckett. President of the International Council for Adult Education, offered a complementary view of EPALE as a “notice board, rich in possibilities”, before describing adult learning in exuberant terms as a means to, “providing a world worth living in for all of us”. He asserted that lifelong learning is a vital catalyst for social and economic change but noted that funding is fragile across European countries, with professionals doing similar things in different contexts.

Alan Tuckett

Alan Tuckett

Alan talked of EPALE as a vehicle for enhancing policy advocacy and sharing practice before listing his personal view of great adult educators’ characteristics as:

  • Dreaming
  • Stealing (or borrowing / adapting other people’s ideas)
  • Dancing
  • Showing off

Ulf-Daniel Ehlers brought another change of style and perspective, focusing on changes in adult learning patterns, which he described as moving from institutional boundaries and exclusivity into spaces where people can learn informally. He spoke of transition from, “industrialisation, massification and standardisation”, to a new paradigm of learning that is, “post-modern, individualised and disaggregated.”

A slide from Ulf-Daniel Ehler's presentation

A slide from Ulf-Daniel Ehler’s presentation

A lively question and answer session followed. This was live-streamed and interactive based on twitter links using the hashtag #epale2015.

After the all-male morning session, Carolyn Hay, EPALE’s Project Director, started the afternoon with more specific information about the platform’s concepts and content, introducing team members in person and virtually.

Carolyn Hay

Carolyn Hay

The afternoon’s focus then moved on to case studies and user perspectives before an invitation to contribute views, feedback and recommendations. Gracieta Sbertoli, Chair of the European Skills Network spoke compellingly, “from one stakeholder to another” on how we can benefit from EPALE followed by a panel discussion.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s well worth exploring the EPALE website at http://ec.europa.eu/epale/.

The main themes on the platform are:

  • Learning Support
  • Learning Environments
  • Life Skills
  • Policy
  • Quality

What do you think of the platform? What would you like to see included? What can you contribute?

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About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/1GI0QK1

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