23 SES 02 C, Lifelong Learning
Adult education has since the 1920s been a point of interest for the Danish labour movement consisting of the labour unions in close collaboration with the Social Democratic Party. In 1924, the Confederation of Labour Unions (LO) together with the Danish Social Democratic Party established the Workers’ Educational Association (AOF) with the aim of improving the workers’ conditions through popular education. Today, the association is still an integrated part in adult education in Denmark. Historically, adult education has also been part of the collective bargaining between the labour unions and the employers’ associations with the unions fighting for workers’ rights to education. In 1977, for instance, the brewery workers’ union, inspired by the Italian Metal Workers’ Union and their success in establishing a right to education in the Italian labour market, put forward the demand in the negotiations that all workers should have a right to a stipulated number of hours of education annually within the working hours and with full salary compensation. The educational offers should be either offered by or controlled by the unions. The unions had a double interest in education: 1) to give workers access to more education, and 2) political enlightenment and mobilisation (Olesen, 1980).
When we look at the unions’ approach to education today, much has changed since the 1970s. In the latest tripartite agreement on adult and further education (Trepartsudvalget, 2017) focus is no longer on the right to education or education as part of a political project. The focus of the unions is to ensure the employment and not least the employability of their members in a volatile and precarious labour market (Standing, 2011). Hence, the needs of the enterprises and of the Danish economy have taken precedence over the rights and the needs of the workers as the first is perceived as a precondition for the latter. Workers need to be mobile (geographically, horizontally and vertically) and enrol in a lifelong learning regime in order to adapt to a labour market under constant change (Pedersen, 2011). The unions seem to have accepted a human capital discourse on adult education.
In this paper, we intend to trace the drift in the Danish labour union’s strategies and visions for adult education, from a political project aimed at mobilising the workers in the 1970s to an insurance against unemployment/unemployability for the union members in 2017. The aim is to discuss the consequences for adult education and the possibility of adult education having a broader scope than mere labour market qualification also for the labour unions. Through the case of adult education, we hope to shed some light on the changes in the understanding of the aim of education within the labour movement, and in the relative bargaining power of the unions in the Danish negotiated economy (Pedersen, 2006).
Theoretically, we build mainly on Biesta (2010) and his distinction between subjectification, socialisation and qualification, but also include concepts like the competition state (Cerny, 1997) and neo-corporatism (Burns & Carson, 2002).
The study will be partly descriptive, partly explorative in the design with the intention to both describe the changes, and search for an understanding of the logic behind the changes. The methodologies used in the study will be document analysis as well as interviews with key informants. In relation to the document analysis, since our primary interest is to trace the changes in the adult education strategies of the unions since the 1920s, with a special focus on the years beginning with the 1970s, we will be taking a historical approach. That means that historical as well as contemporary documents describing strategies to adult education among the unions that have been most active in pushing for and pursuing adult education as part of their strategies, will be analysed. Focus in our analysis, thus, will be on the former Confederation of Labour Unions (LO) and the former organisation of unskilled workers (SID) which became the United Federation of Danish Workers (3F) in 2005. The documents will be located through the archives of the Danish Workers’ Museum and the union websites. Furthermore, we will draw on research reports documenting projects initiated by the unions in order to document the scope of the union projects for adult education. This includes a number of projects carried out by Roskilde University in the 1980s focusing on mainly unskilled and skilled workers and by the Workers Educational Association in cooperation with universities. Finally, we will interview central figures who have played, and who play, an important role in laying down the strategies of the Danish labour movement in regard to adult education.
Through an historical analysis of the role of the unions in adult education we hope to contribute to an understanding of adult education and how it changed from being a means of political mobilisation to being a means of insuring union members against a precarious global labour market. The research will also shed light on the unions and on how the role of the unions changed from being a political organisation to being a service organisation for its members. Although, Denmark (still) has a high rate of unionisation (approx. 70%) and the Danish model grants the unions influence on labour market, employment and vocationally-oriented education policy, their role is diminishing. In terms of a precarious global labour market, however, our claim is that the unions could still have an important role to play and hopefully the analysis, although historically, might also point to how the unions could strengthen their role through a reconsideration of adult education and its potential role as source of mobilisation.
Biesta, G. J. J. (2010). Good Education in an Age of Measurement. Ethics, Politics, Democracy. London: Paradigm Publishers. Burns, T. R., & Carson, M. (2002). European Union, neo-corporatist, and pluralist governance arrangements: lobbying and policy-making patterns in a comparative perspective. International Journal of Regulation and Governance, 2(2), 129-175. Cerny, P. G. (1997). Paradoxes of the Competition State: The Dynamics of Political Globalization. Government and Opposition, 32(2), 251-274. doi:10.1111/j.1477-7053.1997.tb00161.x Olesen, H. S. (1980). Betalt frihed til uddannelse. Roskilde: Roskilde Universietscenter. Pedersen, O. K. (2006). Corporatism and beyond: The Negotiated Economy. In J. L. Campbell, J. A. Hall, & O. K. Pedersen (Eds.), National Identity and the Varieties of Capitalism. The Danish Experience (pp. 245-270). Copenhagen: DJØF Publishing. Pedersen, O. K. (2011). Konkurrencestaten. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Standing, G. (2011). The Precariat. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Trepartsudvalget. (2017). Trepartsaftale om styrket og mere fleksibel voksen-, efter- og videreuddannelse (2018-2021). København: Undervisningsministeriet.
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