Earlier this summer, I travelled to Coimbra and Lisbon on a study visit to learn more about their adult education system, culture, language and history. It was my first time in Portugal. The weather was very warm and sunny. I loved the buildings, with their colourful tiles, and the beautiful and emotional Fado music. Lisbon is famous for its seafood and Pastel de Nata, a type of custard tart.
They are facing problems with funding, and told me that, in their view, adult education in general is neglected, with a lack of consistency in policies and appropriate funding. They believe adult education policy and practice should be strengthened in Portugal and across Europe, including legislation, administration, coordination and quality assurance structures, local and national adult education centres and institutions.
We sat in the food court of the school and had lunch together, with delicious sardines and pastel de nata. Professor Salgado bought me pastel de nata and told me the story of the delicious dessert!
Then I took a train to Coimbra, which is a student city and very green and calm. I met my hosts from the Polytechnics Institute of Coimbra – Professor Dina Soeiro, Sofia Silva (Vice-president of The Higher School of Education) and Maria João (Pró-Presidente and responsible for International Affairs). They shared ideas about the adult education system in Portugal and the different programmes they run.
One of these is the Letters for Life project, a non-formal community programme, which promotes digital literacy workshops with adults. They also run the Keys for Life and the Music for Life programmes, to promote literacy through music. The goals are to support different kinds of literacies, social inclusion, combating loneliness, active aging, health education and democratic citizenship.
The Letters for Life workshops are aimed at adults who did not go to school, or who were there only briefly or had negative experiences. For some older people on the programme, learning how to write their own name was a dream for them, which they kept postponing. They had also learned to write the names of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and it was so meaningful to them that they were motivated to keep going. Each workshop has a small library with donated books, and participants have access to books to take home.
In the Keys for Life sessions, participants were learning to use technology – a computer, tablet, mobile phone – and other online tools for everyday life like being able to make an online payment, create an account on social media, access the National Health Service portal or make a video call to talk to family.
The sessions also include information on how participants could protect themselves against online scams, fake news, and to learn not to feed hate speech.
Participants were also encouraged to use their IT skills to communicate with local Government ministers or politicians around their electoral promises. So from digital consumers, they are becoming active citizens and learning to have a critical voice in the world.
I continue to keep in touch with both organisation and share knowledge and information. Even though we are from different countries, we share the same values, missions and have very similar challenges. These KA1 mobility study visits help us all to expand our knowledge in our adult learning fields, to find new solutions to common problems, get inspired from each other’s work, make new connections and get a chance to taste amazing food!
In Ireland, AONTAS is the National Co-ordinator for the New European Agenda for Adult Learning, and through this we run a biannual Learners As Leaders programme. This visit inspired me to run a programme specifically for older learners and their experiences of adult learning. The programme runs throughout July and August 2022.
This study visit took place as part of an Erasmus+ KA1 Mobility project called Build Action Mobilise (BAM). For more on AONTAS’s EU Projects, click here.
For more information, contact our Ecem Akarca, AONTAS EU Projects Officer, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To apply for Erasmus+ Adult Education funding in Ireland, contact Léargas