Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe and Beyond

Comparative Perspectives from the 2015 Würzburg Winter School

by Regina Egetenmeyer (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 276 Pages
Open Access


This volume presents comparisons of adult education and lifelong learning with a focus on educational policies, professionalization in adult education, participation in adult learning and education, quality in adult education, and educational guidance and counselling. The essays are based on comparisons discussed at the international Winter School «Comparative Studies in Adult and Lifelong Learning», held in Würzburg, Germany, February 2015. Sub-topics of lifelong learning were chosen for an in-depth comparison and analysis of the situation in various European countries and beyond.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Comparing Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe and beyond: An Introduction
  • Comparing Policies in Lifelong Learning
  • Adult learning and education policies in Germany, Portugal and Sweden: An analysis of national reports to CONFINTEA VI
  • Knowledge economy and demographic change: Comparative case study of Europe and South Asia
  • Comparing Professionalisation in Adult and Continuing Education
  • Adult education and its key actors in academic professionalisation – a comparison between China, India and the European Union
  • The curriculum of study programmes for adult educators – the study cases of Italy, Germany and Portugal
  • Regulations and working conditions for trainers in adult education: A comparative glance
  • Academic professionalisation in adult education: insights into study programmes in Germany, Italy and Portugal
  • Comparing Participation in adult Education
  • Participation and non-participation in adult education and learning: A comparative study between Portugal, Italy, Hungary, and India
  • Comparing Quality Management
  • Comparing Quality Management Systems and procedures in Italy and Germany
  • Comparative analysis of two quality management models in the U.S.A. and Germany
  • Comparing Guidance and Counselling in Lifelong Learning
  • Guidance and counselling in higher education: A comparison between the career services in Germany and Italy
  • Guidance and counseling: processes, methods and activities in a Lifelong perspective
  • Country Reports
  • A regional perspective on tutorship as a potential lifelong and adult guidance tool
  • India towards a knowledge economy: Alternatives for the global demographic challenge and inclusive development in India
  • The status of adult literacy and lifelong learning in Nepal

← 8 | 9 →

Bernd Käpplinger & Steffi Robak


The parable of ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ originated in South-East Asia from where it has widely diffused in manifold versions. One version says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like. They then touched different parts of the elephant. A blind man who touched a leg said the elephant is like a pillar; the one who touched the tail said the elephant is like a rope; the one who touched the trunk said the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who touched the ear said the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who touched the belly said the elephant is like a wall; and the one who touched the tusk said the elephant is like a solid pipe. The parable illustrates a range of truths and challenges. It has been interpreted very differently, but it implies that one's subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth. Experience is a source for learning but often also a main barrier.

Scholars in international or even comparative adult education research sometimes encounter the very same challenges as the six blind men (cf. Käpplinger et al., 2015). Countries or regions are described simultaneously and juxtaposed. Practices in one context are often judged to be desirably beneficial, and it is often attempted to transfer these practices to other contexts. The popular benchmarking approach is based on the assumption that outputs, outcomes, or evidence can be directly compared, and that the best performers give orientation to the underperformers. Huge crowds of policy-makers, administrators, scientists, or practitioners went on pilgrimages to the best performers in order to find the Holy Grail of education, teaching, and learning there. It is a kind of paradox that nowadays the desire and willingness to adapt to simple truths might be bigger than ever. The world is increasingly complex, and we live in an era of extremes and new gruesome fundamentalisms. There seems to be a hunger for less complexity instead of an acceptance of the fact that understanding complexity is a continuous and challenging journey with many pitfalls. Tarc’s (2013, p. 21) reading of the parable is ‘that one’s understanding of the world depends upon how one is positioned and upon what “part” of reality one is “in touch with”… We also learn that despite our incapacity to perceive the whole or sense what another sees from his or her distinct vantage point, we have a propensity to cling to our own limited understandings and spend our energies convincing others of the “rightness” of our ← 9 | 10 → version of reality, rather than attempting to learn with and from the lived realities of differently located others.’

This volume is different from many books dealing with international or comparative research. It is more sophisticated, and it goes far beyond assembling papers from authors coming from different regions. The diverse teams of authors are often engaged in the endeavour of really learning from and with each other. This is valuable in many respects, as Regina Egetenmeyer explains in much more detail in her introduction. It is even more striking when reading the various interesting papers. Here, people from many different backgrounds and levels of proficiency have actively engaged in different phases of collaboration. Learning from and with each other requires time and space. It is anything but accidental that this volume is the final result of a winter school and continued efforts before and after. Modern technologies like emailing, skyping, and the like help a lot in our daily work, but physical presence and meeting people face-to-face still makes a big difference in terms of quality. The results in this volume are very impressive. The methodological approach can inform real comparative research. It could be even a kind of blueprint for future international winter or summer schools and their results. The content of the book offers a diverse richness to build on in many respects.

Overall, this book challenges one obvious but far too simple conclusion that might be drawn from the parable of the six blind men. The parable is sometimes interpreted as a plea for relativism and the subjective opaqueness of knowledge. Of course, we can, even as a group, only touch parts of our realities. And groups of people or disciplines can easily turn onto uncreative conformism. This was all well known in philosophy long before constructivism or even radical constructivism became popular as a learning theory in adult education research. Nonetheless, we as humans can communicate or even go into meta-communication. By real and engaged communication, we can learn from and with each other despite many, many misunderstandings and irritations. But even irritations can very frequently be starting points for learning if we give learning a chance and do not stick to our personal or cultural experiences, preferences, or even prejudices. Perhaps we have to irritate ourselves and others much more often, despite the sometimes assumed or acquired high levels of proficiency and the comfort of the well-established and unquestioned perceptions of our cultures and academic disciplines? For example, why aren’t there any women in the parable of the six blind men, and how did the elephant feel, being touched only as an object to be studied? ← 10 | 11 →


Käpplinger, B., Popović, K., Shah, S. Y. & Sork, T. J. (2015): Six Blind Men and an Elephant: The Futile Quest for Consensus on the Competencies Required for Good Practice. In Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE) (ed.): Proceedings of the 34th CASAE/ACÉÉA Annual Conference. Montreal: Université de Montréal, pp. 432–439.

Tarc, P. (2013): International education in global times: Engaging the pedagogic. New York. ← 11 | 12 →

← 12 | 13 →

Regina Egetenmeyer

Comparing Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe and beyond: An introduction

Context: Würzburg Winter School 2015

This book is the result of a ten-day Winter School at Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg in January and February 2015 on ‘Comparative Studies in Adult and Lifelong Learning’. The Winter School was dedicated to analysing and comparing international and European strategies in lifelong learning. Based on social policy models, lifelong learning strategies in Europe were subjected to a critical analysis. Furthermore, subtopics of lifelong learning were chosen for in-depth comparison and an analysis of selected topics of (European) adult education and lifelong learning.

The Winter School was offered for the second time in 2015, following a first event in 2014. It brought together 51 participants (master’s and doctoral students) and 20 professors and lecturers from six European countries, India, North America, and Africa. Most participants are enrolled in programmes that have a focus on questions of adult education and/or lifelong learning. The Winter School is offered in collaboration with diverse partner universities and one partner institute: Universidade do Minho, Portugal; Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal; Universitá di Padova, Italy; Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy; Technische Universität Chemnitz, Germany; Pécsi Tudományegyetem, Hungary; University of Delhi, India; Jawaharlal Nehru University, India; and the International Institute of Adult & Lifelong Education, New Delhi, India. Academic experts in adult education of the partner universities are involved in the teaching programme. They also send students from their universities to Würzburg and support them in advance. The winter school was public announced and reached also participants outside of other universities in Germany, Europe, North America and Africa. Participants meet in Würzburg for an in-depth study of European policies in lifelong learning, their relevance in adult and continuing education practice, and the comparison of selected aspects of adult education and lifelong learning. The inclusion of Indian partners in particular brought a new challenging perspective for the comparison of adult and lifelong learning. This perspective was experienced to be as valuable as the European perspectives. ← 13 | 14 →

This volume gives young researchers a possibility to publish the results of their discussions in Würzburg and their further work. Due to the sponsorship of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of a program for supporting young German education researchers, the volume has a special focus on supporting German fellows. They, together with their international fellows, have contributed comparative papers on questions in adult education and lifelong learning.

From a didactical perspective, the Winter School is divided into a preparatory phase and two main parts. Participants prepare for the two main parts of the Winter School: (Part 1) Lifelong learning strategies in Europe, and (Part 2) Comparing lifelong learning. In preparation for Part 1, participants get a reading exercise based on some research papers and a study guide on European strategies in lifelong learning, authored by Licinio Lima and Paula Guimarães. Master’s students who study at one of the partner universities attend local tutorials for preparing, discussing, and understanding the texts. For Part 2 of the Winter School, all participants choose one comparative group (e.g. training the adult education trainers, adult learning, and adult education participation). Based on their selection, they prepare a country report on the situation in this field in their home country. All participants submit this country report two weeks before the Winter School. Each group has an international expert on their topic as moderator. The moderators provide online support to the participants in advance to help them prepare the paper. This means an intensive preparation phase for the participants and high-quality discussions throughout.

All participants met in late January 2015 in Würzburg to start Part 1 of the Winter School, which was moderated by Licinio Lima and Paula Guimarães in two different groups. Part 1 lasted from Wednesday till Tuesday. Participants developed a shared understanding of international discourses and the international terminology in adult and lifelong learning policies. Furthermore, all participants were introduced to the analysis of lifelong learning strategies of European stakeholders and local actors in adult and continuing education. Therefore, three models of education were distinguished: the democratic-emancipatory model, the modernisation and state control model, and the human resources management model (cf. Lima, Guimarães, & Touma, in this volume). During the discussion of the models several practice examples from participants’ home countries were discussed. Afterwards, an analytical scheme was developed, and participants were introduced to practice observation. Based on this analytical background, participants went on field visits to local adult and continuing education providers (civic education, vocational and professional continuing education, and family education). Moreover, representatives of European ← 14 | 15 → associations in adult and continuing education were invited (Gina Ebner, European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA); Dr. Alexandra Dehmel, European Centre for Vocational Education and Training (CEDFOP)) to discuss their lifelong learning strategies. Based on these insights into practice, participants researched lifelong learning strategies of that practice based on their theoretical models. This analysis gave the participant group a shared vocabulary, which they went on to use for the comparisons in Part 2 of the Winter School.

Part 2 was dedicated to the comparison of selected topics in adult and lifelong learning and lasted from Tuesday till Friday. During Part 2, the group was divided into six comparative sub-groups, which worked on the following topics: ‘Training the Adult Education Trainers’, ‘Adult Learning and Adult Education Participation’, ‘Quality in the Adult Learning Sector’, ‘The Policy and Practice of Lifelong Learning for the Knowledge Economy’, ‘Professionalisation in Adult and Continuing Education’, and ‘Educational Guidance and Counselling’. The comparative groups were made up in a way to reflect participants’ research interest (e.g. in PhD thesis) and to ensure an international mix with participants from different countries. Each comparative sub-group used the following structure (see also Section 2 of this introduction): introduction to the topic, country presentations by participants, development of categories, testing of categories, as well as interpretation and comparison. From Wednesday afternoon, participants worked independently in their groups, which ended on Friday with an open space presentation during which all groups presented the results of their group work.

Figure 1: Würzburg Winter School 2015 (Egetenmeyer, 2014).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2015 (November)
Adult Learning Educational Guidance Educational Counselling
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 276 pp., 11 tables, 10 graphs

Biographical notes

Regina Egetenmeyer (Volume editor)

Regina Egetenmeyer is Professor of Adult and Continuing Education at the University of Würzburg, Germany. Her research focuses on cross-national comparative adult education, professionalization in adult education, lifelong learning, and mobility for learning purposes.


Title: Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe and Beyond
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
278 pages