This report presents the results from a comparative study of the qualification of adult educators in the Nordic-Baltic region. The study involved Denmark, Estonia and Sweden. The rationale behind the study is a growing interest in adult education resulting from a focus on lifelong learning in the public and political agendas, internationally and nationally. According to the authors of the report, an increased interest in adult education generates an increased interest in the professionalisation of the adult education sector, and thereby in the qualification of those teaching adults: adult educators.
Based on this belief, the study and hence the report looks into the role that the qualification of adult educators plays in policy, learning opportunities for those interested in qualifying as adult educators as well as adult educators’ status as professionals. Besides the formation of personal teaching, which is grounded in learning theory, theoretical principles and experiences from practice, the development of a professional identity plays a role in adult educators becoming professionals. Similarly, so does the recognition of adult educators as professionals by society at large.
Methodologically, the study is based on document analysis. The documents selected for analysis have been: national and international research reports and articles; official descriptions of national education systems; and policy papers, laws and other legal documents dealing with adult education and/or the qualification of adult educators.
The study shows that in all three countries, there has been an increase in the political interest in adult education and training. In 1993, an act on adult education and training was accepted in Estonia and updated in 2001 (Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, 1993). Four years later, in 1997, a huge reform of the adult education and training system was carried out in Sweden, and in 2000, a reform of adult and continuing education was launched in Denmark. The main drivers for the increased focus on adult education and training in all three countries seem to be the needs of the labour market, in light of globalisation and international competition as well as the Lisbon strategy. The study also shows that in spite of the increased focus on adult education and training and its importance, through out policy papers, there seems to be a lack of interest in the quality of the provision, in terms of education and learning processes, including the qualification of adult educators in Denmark and Sweden. In Estonia, a professional qualification standard for adult educators was accepted in 2004. Except for Estonia, thus, the question of qualification of adult educators is practically absent in ongoing national, political debates with respect to adult education and training.
In relation to the options for those interested in qualifying as adult educators, it is difficult to find courses or education programmes offering initial education and training. Instead, most courses and education programmes either offer in-service or a combination of initial and in-service education and training. Thus, there are few opportunities for adult educators to acquire the professional knowledge and identity as adult educators, before entering the field. In addition, adult educators, to a high degree, develop their competencies as adult educators through their work.
Further, qualification requirements for teaching within adult education and training vary a lot, and are linked to the specific field of adult education. Within general adult education, in all three countries, the requirements are similar to those for teachers in primary and secondary schools with no demands on specific competences in teaching adults. Within vocationally oriented adult education and training, the situation is very similar to that within general adult education, as demands for pedagogical qualifications do not include specific competences in teaching adults. Liberal adult education in all three countries stands out as the least regulated sector in relation to required pedagogical qualifications for educators. Requirements within this sector are set by each employer. Being that an individual’s professional development is tantamount to a society’s recognition of his/her occupation as a professional one, it can be discussed whether adult educators today are considered as being part of a real profession in the three countries.
Based on the study, it can be concluded, that:
- Adult educators are absent within the policy discourse of adult education and training.
- Adult educators stand on the edge of a profession.
- Adult educators are self-taught professionals.
These issues are worth further attention within both policy and research circles.
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press , 2010. , 56 p.