23 SES 08 B, Adult Education Policies and Practices
This paper presents an investigation of ongoing adult education reforms in a European country, Italy. In so doing, it problematizes the country relations with the European Union (EU) - and to a minor extent with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - and argues these relations are an essential but not sufficient factor to understand national policy reforms in adult education.
Albeit adult education refers to all practices and processes that consider adults as pedagogical subjects, independently from age, responsibilities, educational attainment, socio-economic conditions, and the venues in which they take place, this paper takes a public policy stand. Here adult education is equated for the most to publically-funded education (either via national budgets or the European Social Fund) for out-of-school youth and adults (autochthones as well as immigrants).
Publically-funded adult education is a national responsibility. Transnationalism, Europeanization and global governance in education, however, have challenged these assumptions. Scholarly work has increasingly shed light on the workings of international organizations, their efforts in legitimizing specific political interests, and their influences in shaping international and regional adult education agendas through the adoption of new governance mechanisms and the promotion of a global monitoring culture. One of the downsides, however, is the lack of systematic research on how global-local interconnectedness is redefining the public nature and scope of adult education in specific localities, the way adult education policy is made, and how both affect publically-funded adult education interventions in single European countries. Consequently, it is difficult to pinpoint the global-local nexus in adult education and whether and how it affects government-sponsored practice in specific localities (e.g., in Italy - at country, administrate region or municipal levels).
A number of state-led and non-governmental organizations work increasingly together, and with national administrations, to govern the education of out-of-school youth and adults. Such global networks promote either expansion or reduction of governmental expenditure in adult education as a public good that is distinct from other forms of primary, secondary, or tertiary education, and sometime this leads to formal cooperation frameworks, like the one on (adult) skills signed in 2013 between the European Commission and the OECD.
Governmental structures, however, are still the primary actors who can deliberate on what share of national budgets goes to support adult education practice, and what justifies such public expenditure at country, administrate region or municipal levels; deliberations that within the EU, since the global economic crisis (2008-onwards), depends also on joint austerity policies.
By adoption of an interdisciplinary perspective this paper offers conceptual underpinnings for a global political sociology of adult education policy, and then presents a country-led analysis led by the following research question: How do ongoing Italian reform of adult education connects with European political directions and measures?
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