Working to improve adult literacy in Europe
Improving adult literacy in Europe involves tackling numerous challenges at local, regional and international levels. The European Basic Skills Network (EBSN) held a conference in June 2016 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to discuss effective ways of tackling these challenges. Ninety stakeholders from twenty-four European countries representing governmental institutions and civil society gathered to identify ways of improving European adults’ basic skills.
The conference was opened by the Slovenian Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Dr Maja Makovec Brenčič, who stressed that the provision of basic skills improves not only adults’ chances of employment, but also supports their personal development, enabling them to become ‘more satisfied with their lives’. The issue of employability was also emphasized by Dana Carmen Bachmann, the European Commission’s Head of Unit for Vocational Training and Adult Education. Ms Bachmann noted that on one hand, a high percentage of employers, report difficulties in finding qualified employees. On the other hand, employees say that their skills development is stagnating because of a lack of learning opportunities in the workplace. To tackle Europe’s skills shortage, a New Skills Agenda was announced. The Agenda calls on EU Member States and education stakeholders in Europe to improve the quality of skills provision as well as their relevance to the labour market. This new agenda aims to provide a ‘skills guarantee’ to 64 million citizens without upper secondary education.
The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) has been a member of the EBSN since its inception in 2010. At the conference, UIL senior programme specialist, Ulrike Hanemann, shared insights into the relevance of Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its implications for adult literacy in Europe and basic skills policies. UIL pointed out that only a few countries in Europe have systematic approaches to catering for the literacy and numeracy needs of disadvantaged youth and adults. It is important to focus on these target groups so that they can contribute to their economies and societies.