1 Jul 2019

Sharing Ideas, Experiences, & History to Create a Stronger Europe

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AONTAS Advocacy Lead Ben Hendriksen travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark on the 25th June to attend the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA) General Assembly and Conference. The trip took place as part of the KA1 ERASMUS+ ‘Build Action Mobilise (BAM)’ project. Organised by AONTAS the project supports the continuous professional development of our staff and Board. In our latest blog Ben shares the highlights of his trip.

Last week I was given the fantastic opportunity to travel to another European city and meet colleagues from around the continent as part of a Key Action 1 (KA1) Erasmus+ Mobility. My trip was part of a series of mobilities which AONTAS has been granted in 2019-2020. These mobilities aim to support the professional development of AONTAS staff and board members through learning exchanges and involvement in European work.

I travelled to Copenhagen for the annual General Assembly and Conference hosted by the EAEA. The two day event was held at the Vartov in Copenhagen, a building and space with deep connections to Grundtvig; the Danish priest, writer, philosopher who was the force behind the establishment of famous folk high schools in Denmark.


The purpose of my mobility was to connect with other policy influencers, advocates, and practitioners from across Europe to discuss best practice, what’s changing, and what we can do as a collective across borders, in order to make adult education, and lifelong learning more accessible in all corners of our continent.

Presentations at the event included inputs from several engaging speakers which I have listed below. From these inputs the most important takeaway I had was that for adult education to get the policy and funding support it deserves we need to shift the thinking of policy makers away from seeing education as a tool only for employment but instead as a tool necessary for the development of a strong social fabric, of which one element of success is economic. This takeaway is not of course new. However, through speakers like Alex Stevenson who spoke about a joint project focusing on life skills; or Lene Rachel Andersen, author of a new book The Nordic Secret, who spoke about adult education and folk high schools as a the basis for lifting Denmark specifically and Scandinavia generally out of 19th century economic collapse, it was possible to see new policy frames which can be used across Europe generally and in Ireland specifically. These new frames for evaluating policy options for adult education and lifelong learning should be able to help us make our arguments to politicians and public servants in Ireland who too often view the metrics for education success as employment outcomes, and number of certifications and other accreditation earned.

Speakers at the EAEA General Assembly and Conference included the following:

My time in Copenhagen was wonderful. It is a beautiful city with amazing history and a positive story about adult education that is and must continuously be told across the rest of Europe. The EAEA General Assembly and Conference highlighted these points for me and provided renewed inspiration about how we can advocate for the right of all adults in Ireland to quality learning throughout their lives, and to promote the value and benefits of lifelong learning.

As an EU Member State, Ireland has access to EU funding programmes like Erasmus+ which support people to acquire new work skills, contributing to active citizenship, and personal development. Such programmes allow AONTAS to support our members to promote and profile the work of adult learning in Ireland. It also provides our members with an opportunity to learn from our EU neighbours and bring new ideas back to Ireland.

For more information on this project please contact Dearbháil Lawless, EU Projects Officer at: