The 2024 EPALE Thematic Focuses cast a glance at three essential challenges of our current world.

Always at the forefront of efforts to respond and adapt to societal changes, the last few years have severely challenged education systems and educators all over the world. In 2023, in particular, we experienced a slow recovery and geopolitical tensions, which are likely to continue in 2024.

In this context, and with a strong link with the ongoing European Year of Skills, the 2024 EPALE Thematic Focuses cast a glance at three essential challenges of our current world to help us reflect and build new practices in Adult learning and education.

Let’s take a closer look!

Upskilling and Reskilling for the Digital Transition

The incredibly fast-paced technological developments of the past few years have affected all aspects of our everyday lives. This pervasiveness can lead to a sense of inevitability and powerlessness towards processes that are often perceived as being too complex to grasp. We need to be protagonists rather than mere spectators of these changes. In this way, we can navigate and – most importantly – shape them. EPALE, in 2024, wants to delve deep into this key issue, particularly exploring how adult educators and learners can retrieve agency and master digital change. We will investigate the importance of equipping adults with a wide range of digital skills, from basic digital literacy to data literacy and algorithm literacy.

One of the priorities of this focus will be women’s empowerment in tech. How can we tackle the underrepresentation of women in ICT professions and STEM education? What are the best practices to ensure that education and training lead to effective and lasting labor market integration of women? How does gender bias affect technology, and what role can adult learning and education play in untangling this. 

Adult Learning for Sustainable Development

As the effects of the climate crisis are clear for all to see over Europe and across the world, a renewed awareness leads us to accelerate the green transition in all areas and sectors of society.
Adult learning and training can play a major role in building capacity in this field. On the one hand, developing green skills is crucial as it enables adults to master new green technologies and work processes. While on the other hand, adult learning can support citizens’ capacity to “think and act green” (European Skills Agenda), and become full global citizens, aware of their impact on the environment.

With this focus, EPALE will investigate how the education and training sector can act for a greener, more sustainable future by strengthening the sustainability competencies and skills of adult learners. How can we ensure that sustainability and ecological literacy are integrated into adult education programmes and educators’ training? How do we train workforces to develop a green skillset that is aligned with the current challenges? And, most of all, what are the potentialities of adult learning to drive long-term change? 

Adult Learning as a Way Out of Poverty

Poverty is a complex, multi-dimensional, phenomenon: its definition goes beyond a mere income-based definition and encompasses other disadvantages, such as disempowerment, vulnerability and discrimination. Reducing inequalities, fighting social exclusion, and tackling poverty, thus, are all intertwined efforts that require a joint commitment in promoting equal opportunities for all. Just, fair and equal access to education has direct and indirect impacts on both economic growth and social inclusion. EPALE recognizes adult learning and education as a core lever for reducing poverty and tackling inequalities.

With this focus, we will investigate the relationship between poverty and education. How can we tackle the root causes of poor educational performance, including early school leaving, by looking at lifelong learning with a holistic approach? What are the best practices and methodologies to support learners’ empowerment and sense of ownership in educational paths? We will also focus on skills validation as a way of empowering people to unleash their potential and thrive, both in the workplace and society at large.