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Challenges: Digitalisation and sustainability in focus

Social and environmental sustainability play a major role in Austrian adult learning associations. Some organisations already have strategies to promote sustainability in their learning programmes in place, others are currently working on them. Some say they would need more guidance on how to do this. Austrian members say that there is still space for a better implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the ALE sector. Hence, at the national level, there are plans to develop an SDG strategy for the ALE sector, i.e. a guiding document for all ALE associations and providers in Austria.

The working group Transformative Learning of the Austrian UNESCO Commission deals with the implementation of SDG 4. VÖV, the Austrian Association of Adult Education Centres, is a member of this working group and thus helps to shape this area. In addition, contact has been established with NGOs that deal with the implementation of the SDGs. Within the framework of a VÖV working group, good practice examples are being collected with the representatives of their members and a strategy is being worked on.

Adult Education Centres have a long tradition in the field of sustainability. For example, environmental counselling has been around for 33 years. The model was developed in cooperation with the Adult Education Centres and the VHS is still the provider of environmental counselling today. In addition, some Adult Education Centres have been certified for eco-labels.

Recommendations to policymakers

Austrian adult education organisations argue that it is increasingly necessary to communicate about non-formal adult education and its value. What is special about non-formal adult education, what do politics and society gain from it? EAEA’s members say that the answer is simple: ALE is very effective, it is also very flexible and relatively inexpensive, compared to other political measures.

They also emphasise that not only learning job-related skills is important. People also need to be reached with topics such as democracy, human rights, communication, learning from our history, team building, etc.

Although the situation of adult education in Austria is still relatively "privileged" compared to other countries, education providers would nevertheless like to see better and more long-term funding that would enable them to invest, for example, in digitalisation or teacher training. They would get more project-independent public funding that requires less bureaucracy. Smaller organisations find the administration of public funding too burdensome.

Looking forward

The priority topics of EAEA’s Austrian members for 2022 include digitalisation, in particular the continuation of the implementation of the new digitalisation strategy. The Austrian adult education associations also want to involve older people more actively in the programmes of the adult education associations and are developing a strategy for this together with their network partners.

Another focus will be health, for which the adult education associations are planning to develop a competence framework for health educators and a validation procedure. Sustainable working and learning and the promotion and conservation of biodiversity will also be a priority for some organisations. Finally, the recruitment of new trainers and educators will also be on agenda in 2022. Validation processes will be strengthened and expanded to recruit competent teachers.