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Why this theme?

Since its emergence in the 18th century in several European countries, adult education as a policy subfield has had as main aims the promotion of the right to education, fostering equality of access and success in education, social justice, the sharing of knowledge among diverse participants of different kinds of offers and social and economic situation and freedom of thinking and learning. Literacy courses were essential for the building of democracies, promoted by State authorities or others.


The acquisition of knowledge useful for working and the development of non-formal education activities in quite diverse settings, such as the workers’ social movement and civil society organisations allowed the implementation of a wide range of initiatives that allowed adults in several countries to learn significant and useful knowledge for everyday life in economic, cultural, political and civic spheres. Fighting poverty by the means of adult education was also foreseen as a significant path for adults who were lacking literacy and those who were workers and citizens in changing societies facing challenges in technological and scientific arenas (Hake, 2021).


In the mid 20th century, public policies became important for the economic period following the second World War, the independence of several regions and the consolidation of democracies all around the world. The use of leisure time with educational activities and the recognition of learning developed in quite diverse domains allowed the progressive visibility of adult education. Formal education uniformisation, oppression, social reproduction of inequalities, different power relations within educational settings or in informal contexts of learning were significant problems that justified adult education policies and reflected criticism to values underlying programs implemented all around the world (Mikulec, 2018). Therefore, in spite of developments in adult education policies, the right to education for all has always been at stake, even presenting different trends in various countries and regions, as inequalities in access and success in education have been a concern both for adult learners and educators and policy makers. The history of adult education policies is therefore marked by progression and constraints, continuities and discontinuities that have allowed the highlighting by researchers of several risks, inequalities and challenges related to the role of education and learning for individual and social transformation. These developments have been triggered as well by globalisation and trans-nationalisation of adult education in policy making and implementation (Lima & Guimarães, 2011).


In present times, the traditional problems and challenges of adult education policies are complemented by new ones, concerning the withdraw of the State in adult education domains, governance issues, the increasing of structural unemployment and the use of educational policies to solve low-skills shortages, labour market and economic problems, scientific and technological developments impacting in work contexts, climate changes and environmental challenges as well as civic and political risks occurring from the rise of right wing parties, extremist social movements and conservative thinking. In parallel with traditional problems and challenges, new inequalities arose, concerning gender issues, racial and ethnic matters within migration trends from the global South to the global North, the digital divide, health situations, such as the one resulting from the pandemic of covid-19.


The contribution of adult education to research and theory development, practices and policies is of outmost relevance but as well questioned by many. Prospects on the intervention of the State, international governmental organisations, national/regional and local providers is today under discussion (Jakobi, 2009). The role of policy-makers, adult educators and learners is under debate, in a period when the individual subject seems to be considered strategic and rational enough to make the best choices and to learn lifelong in a wide range of settings. Therefore, the futures of adult education, when considering global, national/regional and local policies and actors, requires critical problematisation (Milana, Holford & Mohorčič Špolar, 2016) and this is the challenge raised to participants of this PSAE network conference.


Institutional partners and organising committee

The institutional entities involved in this conference are:

​1. The Madeira Regional Association of Educational Administration (Associação Regional de Administração Regional de Administração Educacional:ARAE)

The Madeira Regional Association of Educational Administration was created in 2006. The association has been developing training activities, as well as symposia and conferences, within an open scope for educational administration, policy and governance.

2. The European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) & ESREA'S Policy Studies in Adult Education (PSAE) network.

The ESREA PSAE Network is a network of ESREA that has developed several network conferences up to now. ESREA is a European scientific society. It was established in 1991 to provide a European-wide forum for all researchers engaged in research on adult education and learning and to promote and disseminate theoretical and empirical research in the field. The European Society for Research on the Education of Adults promotes and disseminates theoretical and empirical research on the education of adults and adult learning in Europe through research networks, conferences and publications. ESREA provides an important space for the (re)definition of adult education and learning in relation to research, theory, policy and practice to be reflected upon and discussed. A significant part of the periodic scientific debates is made through the meetings organised by ESREA research networks.



Conference language

The PSAE conference language is English. Abstracts/paper proposals and symposium proposals must be submitted in English.

Hake, B. J. (2021). Éducation permanente in post-war France, 1945–1960: Circulatory regimes and policy repertoires. Studies in the Education of Adults, 54(1), 4-24.
Jakobi, A. (2009). International organisations and lifelong learning. From global agendas to policy diffusion. Palgrave MacMillan.
Lima, L. C. (2021). Educação permanente: contestação, enquadramento, otimização pessoal. In A.
Melo, L. C. Lima & P. Guimarães (eds.), A©tualidade da educação permanente (pp. 85-109).
Espaço Ulmeiro/APCEP.
Mikulec, B. (2018). Normative presumptions of the European Union’s adult education policy. Studies
in the Education of Adults
, 50 (2), 133-151.
Milana, M., Holford, J. & Mohorčič Špolar, V. (eds.)(2016). Adult and lifelong education. Global,
national and local perspectives.
UNESCO (2021). Reimagining our futures together. A new social contract for education. UIL.

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