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Quality at the heart of adult education and learning

At an international conference organised by Italy’s Regione Umbria on 10 May in Brussels, Cedefop Director James Calleja said that ‘recognition, reputation and employability are the key indicators of quality in adult education and learning.’

He added that ‘these reference points are at the heart of a quality process that aims at building an employability culture.’

Mr Calleja was speaking at the launch of international project PRALINE results on peer review in adult learning to improve formal and non-formal education.

Also addressing the conference were the President of Regione Umbria Catiuscia Marini and Dana Bachman, Head of Unit in DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

Mr Calleja touched upon the guilt that several policy-makers and providers feel when dealing with quality in adult education and learning compared to standards in mainstream and university education. Quality is always at the heart of adult education and learning issues despite much progress in this sector in several countries over the past 10 years.

Learning at work

Today’s labour market demands that adult education and learning be part of a person’s employment history, with companies striving to create learning environments in the workplace. The awareness across EU Member States and beyond of the importance of quality assurance and the contribution of the Copenhagen/Bruges/Riga processes have been significant. Many Member States and private and public companies and institutions invest resources in increasing the competitiveness of their workforce through education and training.

The Cedefop Director referred to the positive impact the ENQA/EQAVET networks have had on providers, policy-makers and learning institutions, noting that quality is becoming part and parcel of the overall governance structures of vocational education and training (VET) qualifications and adult learning.

Social partners' role

Mr Calleja added that the Commission and ministries responsible for education and training attach great importance to quality assurance, one of the Riga deliverables. He also praised social partners for ‘their role in promoting quality assurance particularly through the initiatives taken by ETUC and BusinessEurope on the European quality framework for apprenticeships and the report on the cost-effectiveness of apprenticeship schemes, respectively. Their example must be supported and followed as a tangible sign of confidence in quality systems that empower workers and employers.’

Concluding, Mr Calleja highlighted the multidimensional, multi-stakeholder and multi-level nature of VET, adult learning and lifelong learning as evidenced in various Cedefop studies over the years and in the ongoing research on VET’s changing role and nature, which clearly indicates that it is evolving.

In her closing speech, Cedefop Governing Board member Tatiana Babrauskiene referred to quality as a key platform in adult education and learning, particularly in a labour market which is becoming increasingly specialised, demanding and flexible regarding skills and competences workers need to learn throughout their working lives.