ESREA 2007 addresses the complex variety of learning challenges which shape the contemporary agendas of adult education and adult learning in socially and culturally diverse European societies.
Adult Learning and the Challenges of Social and Cultural Diversity in European Societies
European societies have historically been characterised by rich but often problematic sources of social and cultural diversity. In this socially and culturally diverse Europe, the development of adult education and adult learning was characterised by a wide variety of educational practices in different European regions and societies. These practices constituted historically specific responses to the learning challenges arising from the modernization of European societies and the development of industrial societies.
The learning challenges currently confronting institutions, organizations and individuals throughout Europe are intimately related to social and cultural diversity. Manifestations of social and cultural diversity in different European societies arise from economic, political, social, and cultural changes in the transformation of industrial into post-industrial European (knowledge) societies. Policy discourses about lifelong learning and the learning society regard adult education and adult learning as keys to the generation of informed collective and individual responses to social and cultural diversity. This involves challenges to governments, organizations, social movements, voluntary associations and individual learners in the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and understandings which enable individuals to "live a life" in the social and cultural diversity of the "learning society".
Complex interactions between these old and these new forms of social and cultural diversity now characterize the transformation from industrial to post-industrial societies or so-called knowledge societies. This is a question of "learning to live a life" in changing and uncertain circumstances. These circumstances are characterized by fragmentation, differences, risks, misunderstandings and conflicts in the everyday lives individuals. This relates to their experience of everyday life in personal relationships, households, neighbourhoods, communities, workplaces and civil society. The current challenges to adult education and adult learning in European societies raise questions of developing and enhancing collective and individual capacities to read and understand the manifestations of social and cultural diversity in everyday life.
ESREA 2007 is devoted to the challenges confronting the social organization of the practices of adult education and adult learning in the contemporary contexts of:
Diverse Lives, Cultures, Learnings and Literacies
Adult education and adult learning involve the ability of individuals, groups, neighbourhoods, communities, organizations and social movements to express their understandings of their diverse lives. This demands the capacity of "having a word to say" in everyday life and to work on changing and improving their lives through informed actions. Meaningful dialogue and communication with others is regarded as the high road to authentic personal and social development. This is a question of individuals and communities being able to read the world and understand the economic, political, social and cultural transformations which affect the everyday lives of families, neighbourhoods, communities, regions, indeed their nations and the globalising world.
In socially and culturally diverse societies, both the "known" and the "unknown" form major learning challenges for individuals and communities in their personal and collective struggles for senses of personal meaning. This involves the search for shared identities and communities which can make their diverse cultures both more understandable and liveable.
Globalisation is experienced in terms of increasingly contested and fragmented day-to-day lives in communities and conflicts between "old intimacies" and "new estrangements". Lifelong learning has become a question of learning to "live a live" in confusing local, regional and national territories with increasingly unclear horizons in the global world.
There are many historical and contemporary examples in European societies of systematic attempts to control the use of "words". This is the issue of the diverse learnings available in society and struggles to control access to the public sphere of communication and learning.
Adult education has often been put to work in adult learning programmes with the intention of re-socializing individuals to become good parents, reliable workers, loyal subjects, unquestioning members of the church or political party, and speakers of languages not their own. Contemporary struggles for control of the public sphere and the right to use ‘words’ are closely related to social and cultural diversity. These struggles now focus on the rights of ethnic, linguistic, religious and sexual minorities to voice their own diverse learnings in the public sphere in the face of the re-interpretation of the meaning of freedom of speech. When social inclusion and social exclusion in European societies are defined in terms of social and cultural differences, the issue of diverse literacies involves the generation of active capacities to be able to speak, to live and to act in the socially and culturally diverse environments of everyday life. The key challenges for the symbolic worlds of adult education and adult learning are the manner in which they address questions of social class, gender, religions, ethnicity and nationality. "Whose language are we talking?” and "Who is listening?” are not new questions for adult educators. Answers to these questions, however, are increasingly problematic in the multi-cultural and neo-nationalist contexts of many European societies. This highlights the importance of the symbolic worlds of adult education and adult learning which address the contemporary problems of social and cultural capital in the struggle for social inclusions and cohesion.
Thematic Parallel Sessions
ESREA 2007 is organised in a number of parallel sessions which are devoted to the discussion of papers which comprise reports of empirical research. Papers may report new, ongoing and recently completed research. Papers from PhD students will be particularly welcome. Papers presented at ESREA 2007 should address one or more of the following themes which constitute the provisional framework for the organization of parallel workshops: