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Challenges: Equal digital participation in focus

As in other countries, COVID-19 pandemic has had a major influence. The pandemic has had economic effects for adult education providers when income from conferences and other activities has disappeared. In addition many adults have struggled to adapt to digital learning.

EAEA’s members have engaged in active lobbying and answering questions from adult learning providers in relation to the pandemic. The government has been understanding for the changes and adjustments in the work programme.

In the spring the Swedish Study Association made almost a complete move to digital learning, with the exception of courses that had to be cancelled, postponed or moved outdoors. The financial situation for some of the study associations was greatly affected because of the cancelled courses and no income from participant fees. This led to termination of contracts of educators and staff, especially part-time workers. During the summer some of the courses returned to the training facilities.

As a result of the corona crisis it has been proposed that vocational higher education be reinforced with new places, short courses and course packages, as well as various kinds of pilot projects so that more people can complete their qualification. It is proposed that folk high schools be expanded, with full financing from the central government. The study associations have received a special grant to develop more distance courses suited for people that have lost, or are at risk to lose, their jobs.

Facing digitalisation and economic recession

For the Swedish Study Association, digitalisation and the matter of equal digital participation have become increasingly important focus areas as a result of the pandemic and the work will continue next year. Increasing number of people losing their jobs and the economic recession will increase the importance of adult education.

For the Swedish National Council for Education, Agenda 2030 will be one of the focus areas, both as a strategic tool but also as an inspiration for practical activities and discussions. SNCA will also continue to advocate for more funding for folk high schools, higher salaries and more further education for the teachers.

The Swedish Study Association calls upon the government to increase the funding for adult learning, with a focus on sustainable "folkbildning" and cultural activities, instead of short term projects with a narrow labor market focus. These initiatives will have a positive impact on the possibilities for lifelong learning, as well as the social trust and unity in Sweden.