Adult education: from visible to invisible? Recent policy developments in Denmark

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskning

When the first round of results from the PIAAC survey was published in 2013, the media coverage in Denmark was limited and quickly focused on how to enhance learning in primary school (Cort & Larson, 2015). What could have led to an increased focus on adult education and training, thus, instead revealed how the interest in adult education and training was being overshadowed by a dominant focus on primary education. This apparent lack of interest for adult education and training is not a given in the international context and perhaps especially in Denmark. In the 1970’s, both UNESCO and the OECD featured the need for education and training not only in childhood and adolescence but also for adults (e.g. Faure et al., 1972; OECD, 1973). With the Lisbon strategy launched in 2000, the EU also promoted adult education and training. However, following the financial crisis in 2007-2009, EU seems to have downplayed the relevance of adult education and training in favour of a focus on education to combat youth unemployment (Larson & Rasmussen, 2016). A similar development can be found in Denmark where adult education and training was high on the political agenda both in the 80’s and 90’s. Among the initiatives, the parliament in 1984 adopted a 10 point programme for adult education and enlightenment (Danish Parliament, 1984), and in 1989 an adult education grant targeted low qualified adults were introduced (Lov om voksenuddannelsesstøtte [Act on adult education grant], 1989). Both initiatives highlighted the need for adult education and training in relation to working life but also to other areas of adult life. Here in 2016 the political attention to adult education and learning seems limited and the broader focus on learning for life almost gone. When the Danish government in august 2016 sat up an expert group on development of the Danish adult and further education system, the explicit goal was to make it better to support the development of a productive and highly qualified Danish workforce (Danish Government, 2016). Why these changes? Two possible hypotheses are: (1) the Danish system of adult education works well, serving relevant needs of citizens as well as the labour market and contributes to social justice. Thus policy intervention is not needed and the workings of adult education are more or less invisible (2) the Danish system of adult education confronts problems of quality and organization, but in the competition for political and public attention is has lost out to other sectors, especially primary education and vocational education. The aim of this paper is to look closer into the changed policy status of adult education. We will try to trace the reasons for the changes and the potential consequences. Further, we discuss the theoretical perspectives. Both hypotheses outlined above have important implications for the understanding of relationships between (adult) education systems, society and policymaking. Theoretically the paper will draw broadly on critical policy sociology (e.g. Ball, 2012) and on agenda-setting studies (Kingdon, 2014). Methodologically, we will take a historical perspective on policies for adult education and training in Denmark since 1980. We will look both at the policies and at the societal needs and problems they address. We will identify ideological and economic trends behind the development not only in Denmark but also internationally. The analysis will be based mainly on analyses of policy documents representative for the decades. In relation to the latest developments the document analysis will be supplemented with interviews with key stakeholders.
StatusUdgivet - 2017
BegivenhedESREA network on Policy Studies in Adult Education conference 2017: Equity, Social Justice and Adult Education and Learning Policy - University of Verona, Verona, Italien
Varighed: 25 apr. 201627 maj 2017
Konferencens nummer: 3


KonferenceESREA network on Policy Studies in Adult Education conference 2017
LokationUniversity of Verona

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