Over the past few months, the outbreak of the coronavirus (‘COVID-19 crisis’) has risen to the scale of a global pandemic. A total of 213 countries, areas or territories are currently affected. As more and more countries implement a range of measures to contain the COVID-19 crisis, including travel restrictions and various forms of ‘lockdown’, the effects of the crisis can be seen in almost all areas of society.
The world of education has been no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a digitalisation of education and rapidly pushed education and training systems to explore new ways of teaching and learning. Stakeholders at all levels – governments, public and private organisations, communities and individuals – have been developing and implementing innovations and creative solutions to ensure that education systems can continue functioning in light of this. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on adult learning (AL) has also been acute. Participation in adult learning has been impacted, with adult learning providers and educators facing multiple challenges in continuing their learning offers and adapting to the situation. The crisis, and its widespread impact on economies and societies globally, has also highlighted the prominent role for adult learning in a COVID-19 affected world. Within and beyond the crisis, adult learning is key in ensuring people can obtain the (new) skills and competences required in a COVID-affected labour market and society.
Aim of the report
This report aims to provide an insight into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on adult learning, as well as into the role adult learning can play in the context of the crisis (and future similar crises).
These insights aim to inform the discussion at Member State and European level on adult learning.The report focuses on the following guiding questions:
- What are the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on areas that are indirectly affecting adult learning systems (e.g. economy, labour market etc.)?
- What are the short- and long-term impacts on adult learning systems (impact on providers and their teaching/training staff, modes of delivery)?
- What are the short- and long-term impacts on adult learners (as worker, parent, teacher and learner)?
- How is the adult learning system responding to the situation and to the learning needs of adults in particular?
- What are the short- and long-term needs of adult learning systems so that they can provide services that better respond to the current situation?
- What needs to be considered most urgently for adult learning systems to be able to contribute to the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis?
These questions are supported by the following sub-questions:
- How (well) is the sudden transition to distant learning going for adult learning providers and adult learners. Are there differences in how types of providers make the transition (how easy/difficult is it for small education providers, for example)?
- What are (good) examples of initiatives emerging from the adult learning sector?
- Are there particular programmes, curricula, subject fields, etc. that are in higher demand currently?
- What stands out as the main benefit(s) that adult learning can offer people in coping with lockdown, confinement and all the other changes brought on by COVID-19? Why is adult learning now more important than ever?
- What are possible “impact scenarios” to consider in terms of what the world will look like ‘after’ the COVID-19 crisis – and what would this mean for adult learning?
- Does this crisis offer the adult learning sector a chance to show its worth and to emerge as an important sector?
The focus of this report is the whole adult learning system or environment. The report does not differentiate between sub-sectors focusing on basic skills, vocational education and training and in-company training, liberal education or adult learning in higher education. This is done to emphasise the sector-wide approach needed to respond to the emerging challenges and to emphasise that all sub-sectors have their own valuable contribution to the whole sector.
In literature and discussion papers on the COVID-19 crisis, other terms are used, such as ‘postCOVID-19 situation’, or ‘the new normal’. We do not yet know the long-term impact of COVID-19 on our future societies. This depends on many variables, such as whether there will be a second (or third) wave of infections, whether a vaccine will be found and widely available, whether the current situation leads to other challenges and tensions globally, or even whether another Corona-type virus will emerge. What we do, however, know is that societies and individuals need to prepare to cope with a new situation of insecurity, and the potential emergence of sudden shocks and unexpected circumstances, in the future, as experienced in the context of COVID-19. In this report, we use the term ‘COVID-19 affected future’ to refer to this situation. This term refers to the longer-term implications of COVID-19 – approximately one or two years from the outbreak – and refers to a world that is both potentially affected by pandemics, as well as facing increased health and environmental threats.
Full report (*.pdf)