Adult Education Conference

In September 2021, the first conference of the The Association of Estonian Folk High Schools (ERL) was held at the Nooruse Maja “The unused potential of the Folk High Schools – There's plenty of like, but what's next?”.

The aim of the conference was to inform the Estonian people and the designers of education about the place of folk universities and non-formal education in lifelong learning.

Krista Aru made a presentation on the history of Estonian public education, the birth and development of the first educational societies in the last century.

The importance and challenges of non-formal education in Estonia today were discussed by Maire Breede, a member of the board of ERL, and Johanni Laryanko made an overview of non-formal education in Finland.

The discussion of ministers was interesting, where it was discussed whether lifelong learning is a private pleasure for people or whether the state also has a role to play in promoting adult education.

The Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna, the Minister of Culture Anneli Ott and the Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo agreed that the potential of non-formal education is to create a more cohesive society. We can be happy about the fact that Estonia ranks sixth in Europe in terms of the percentage of adult learning. However, it can be considered a challenge that it is difficult to attract those people who would need learning and self-improvement the most.

According to the ministers, non-formal education can be a good opportunity to bring NEET young people, men and people with Russian mother tongue back to learning, or to support people in acquiring various skills and civic education needed in the labor market.

According to Liina Kersna, non-formal education is related to being happy in a broader sense: it encourages people to express their thoughts and gives the feeling that you are understood and accepted by your peers.

The President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Tarmo Soomere, pointed out in his presentation that the role of education is changing in time: knowledge of facts is no longer enough and educated people are expected to be able to behave as intended, to think rationally, to adapt to different situations and to acquire new knowledge and skills throughout their lives.

In the panel discussion “Useful Potential of the Folk High Schools”, there were thoughts that learning people would adapt better to changes that are inevitable in today's working life. It is non-formal education that helps to acquire the necessary general competences, such as communication and cooperation skills, self-management, responsibility, etc. In addition, participation in non-formal training helps to reduce people's sense of loneliness and can create an appetite for continuing self-improvement - today, working life is long, jobs and shifts are changing, but new skills and knowledge will give freedom to choose a new career and to make progress in life if you wish.


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