European consultation on the importance of Bildung in adult education

Bildung and education are terms we usually encounter in connection with children and youth. Is it possible that they also apply to adults? The participants in the recent consultation believe that the answer is affirmative. “Adult education and learning are more than a second opportunity to get an education. They are also more than education and training for work!” With these words, Christoph Jost, the director of DVV International, opened a consultation on the topic More Bildung for Adult Education? Towards a holistic understanding of ALE in the 21st Century.

Abstracts, contributions and presentations are available on the event website.

The title of the event reminded us of the always important four pillars by Délors et al. (Learning — Hidden Treasure; 1996) and the need for a balanced definition and implementation of all four dimensions of ALE (learning to know, to do, to develop one’s personality and to be an active and respectful member of the community). There is more and more talk in the ALE profession about the fifth dimension: transformative education. However, I believe that the latter is actually (only) a successful synergy of the previously mentioned four.

But let us start at the beginning

Four partners: the EAEA, the Institute for International Cooperation at the German Adult Education Association (DVV International), the Bonn AEC and the German national coordinator for the implementation of EAAL (EAAL Germany) have joined forces to organise a consultation of European stakeholders in adult education and learning. The original venue of the event was supposed to be the House of education (Haus der Bildung) in the centre of Bonn, under the auspices of which the city library and the AEC have been operating since the renovation in 2016. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, we were only able to see the admirable spaces via Zoom. The event brought together around 60 participants on December 10 and 11, 2020, who responded to the promising programme.

The key person of the event was Dane Lene Rachel Andersen

Lene, the author of publications and blogs, economist, futurist and philosopher, impressed us already at the pan-European conference EPALE 2019, where she presented the Nordic tradition of ALE and a vision for ALE of the future. This time she impressed us with a similar topic — Nordic Bildung and ALE in the 21st century.

Lena illustrates her views with the so-called Bildung Rose — a ‘flower’ that in a simplified way represents education or an educational model for connecting our inner and outer worlds — for the good (transformation) of both. In The Nordic Secret: A European story of beauty and freedom (2017), she offers a detailed description of this analytical tool that is based also on the principles of developmental psychology. Among other things, she pointed out the difference between Bildung — education focused on the individual and their self-realisation, and pedagogy — education of the individual within a certain culture and economy (and for them).

I was especially touched by her thesis that the meaning-making of our actions is all too often insufficiently supported (with money and other resources). I believe it is also underestimated. And that it is not a value we serve devotedly. That is why I was happy to support the speaker, saying that it makes sense to include people involved in meaning-making — philosophers, sociologists and similar thinkers — in the reflections and consequent decision-making processes. At the conference, this role was played by Prof Rudolf Tippelt of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, who added much appreciated scientifically supported commentaries. Both of them were very convincing, and this experience taught me that we also need to include thinkers in the EAAL forums (we write about the first one already in this issue) who will be able to look beyond our usual horizon and deeper than established levels of thinking and acting.

The EAEA regularly documents such events on their website, sometimes also on EPALE, so we can probably expect a comprehensive summary of the event. However, it is important to write both key conclusions already here:

  • The partner organisations of the consultation will form working groups to examine in more detail the importance of Bildung in relation to four important areas: democracy, sustainable development, key competences and digitalisation. We welcome your participation; the contact person is EAEA President Uwe Gartenschlaeger.
  • The findings and recommendations of the consultation should be incorporated into the drafting of the new EAAL Resolution.

Given that the renewal of the existing resolution is a task within the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, we will be able to influence this process. We will also enable the latter to the EAEA and other advocates of the implementation of Bildung in ALE. We will, of course, report on this.

Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (zvonka.pangerc@acs.si), SIAE

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