Learning through Active Participatory Citizenship (APC) in the Greek context

Although Greece has developed and provides educational programmes for adults that are part of socially disadvantaged groups (low skilled, low income, Roma, long-term unemployed, adults with disabilities, migrants, etc.), there are no upcoming plans for assessing and validating the informal learning of these adults despite efforts to develop a mass system of recognition of non-formal learning. Furthermore, what has not yet been directly addressed is the educational and learning needs of disadvantaged youth and particularly those under the current economic condition; education for unemployed youth and youth in poverty. In line with this, the possibility of programmes that will address poverty management for the next five years can also be included in the policy priorities.

For the time being no APC policies are currently in place as such, even more so AE policies that actually address APC in Greece are in short supply.

Issues considered for effectively delivering APC in local Adult Education (AE) structures

The primary analysis of the respondents in AE structures in Greece reveals the following issues:

  1. Overcoming AE access challenges

It is critical to respect participants’ experiences and accomplishments. Independence is not something most Vulnerable Young Adults (VYAs) (particularly refugees, Roma and transgender) take for granted. It is something they are proud of and they do not appreciate it being undermined.

  1. Learning from AE provision challenges and failures and improving learner experience

There are four major challenges according to educators and VYAs

  • resistance to change
  • fear of participation
  • strongly established habits and tastes
  • fear of failure
  1. Overcoming barriers to APC and cultivating resilience

“Barriers” may not be true limitations. Rather, these are identified in many instances as emotional state of being or perceived inability based on perception by VYAs.

  1. Exploring needed supportive services

Supportive services must operate within partnerships. AE structures must have strategic understanding of the scope of safeguarding services across the whole organisation and that working in partnership with a range of agencies to promote safeguarding services is not well developed.

  1. Exploring needed AE practitioner competencies

There are four domains that represent broad areas of activity for adult educators The first is that they have to monitor and manage student learning and performance through data. The second is to plan and deliver high-quality, occasionally evidence-based instruction. The third domain is to effectively communicate to motivate and engage VYAs. The fourth is to pursue professionalism and continually build knowledge and skills.

  1. Accounting for gender and diversity

Diversity is both a challenge and chance for learning strategies in adult education. For many adult educators diversity management is a key issue. Some characteristics might be apparent; while other characteristics such as ethnicity, disability, religion, financial status, age, value, cultural background and many others may not be apparent based on first impressions.

  1. Improving information and communication practices

There are evident mismatches in recruitment communication. Many VYAs come with high expectations from a programme (i.e. finding employment immediately after the programme, receiving a stipend or subsidy during the programme, or having access to higher education in some cases). Practitioners normally have limited or no access to participants before the beginning of the programme. VYAs are normally recruited and/or selected by the programme manager who is not necessarily the practitioner that will educate or instruct them. Face-to-face communication is the most reliable and consistent mode of communication during the programme.

 A final comment

Adult education practice could benefit more from third-sector know-how. Local and international NGOs with specific expertise in the field can enhance the expertise in adult education settings, but are underutilized in both formal and non-formal adult education. Nevertheless, active citizenship cannot be encapsulated in a set of competences to be acquired once and for all. Beyond the conceptualization of multiple dimensions of citizenship, elaboration of education for active participation needs to be based on a theoretical grasp of the role of learners’ cultural backgrounds.

George K. Zarifis