“In most countries there is a consensus that quality assurance systems should be developed for the adult learning sector, and especially for the non-formal sector. Most countries are currently developing or revising their legislative framework for adult learning, putting more focus on quality assurance mechanisms. In the last few years, most countries produced white papers, communications, policy proposals and lifelong learning strategies in which they emphasise the importance of quality assurance. Nevertheless, the main challenge is to implement these strategies. Experience shows that it takes a long time to build consensus on the idea and content of quality systems” (Panteia, Developing the adult learning sector, p.XII - 2013).
Coherently with the objective of improving quality and relevance of learning offer in education, PRALINE aims at implementing strategies, methods and tools to enhance quality in Formal and Non-Formal Adult Learning (AL), which plays an important role in determining the success of EU policies in the field of Education and Training and the effective implementation of lifelong learning opportunities for citizens. The competitiveness of the European economic system is highly dependent on the quality of its human capital, which in turn can be assured exclusively by enhancing the "possibilities for adults to access high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of gender and their personal and family circumstances" (Renewed EU Agenda for Adult Learning, 2011).
For that, there is a need of facilitating the approach to Quality Assurance and Quality Management of AL providers across Europe and, to this regard, PRALINE partners propose two parallel but complementary lines of action to respectively spread a quality culture and a QA methodology to the AL, and specifically to the non-formal AL providers. For clarity, partners adopt the "Classification of Learning Activities" defined by Eurostat (2006), which refers to Non-Formal Education as "any organized and sustained educational activities [...] that may take place both within and outside educational institutions, and cater to persons of all ages. Depending on country contexts, it may cover educational programmes to impart adult literacy, [...], life-skills, work-skills, and general culture. Non-formal education programmes do not necessarily follow the ladder system, and may have a differing duration" (p.13).
The first line of action responds to the need of initiating the vast majority of Non-Formal AL providers to a quality culture, intended as aware focus on learning outcomes, sector professionals' training, resources, models of management, organizational patterns, whose implementation, as known, directly affects the adults' attitude (specifically those low skilled) towards lifelong learning offer.
To this regard, the project intends to develop a "Warming-up Strategy for Quality", within which activities mainly targeting Non-formal Learning organizations will be planned using peer-learning experiences (national and transnational), exchange of practices and organizations' management staff. Indeed, as recognized in the EU "Action Plan for Adult Learning - It's never too late to learn"(2007), there is a urgent need of developing a common language and a common understanding of Quality in Non-Formal Education.
Secondly, specific activities will be carried out in order to support the AL providers in achieving adoption and implementation of the Peer Review methodology for the Formal & Non-formal Adult Learning. The methodology, which has already been implemented successfully in iVET and cVET in previous EU projects by partners since 2004, is a form of external evaluation carried out by "persons of equal standing" with the persons whose performance is reviewed: Peers. It has proven easy to be used and coherent with the primarily informal approaches that characterise Adult Learning at large. To achieve such result, partners will have to adapt the methodological tools to the key features of AL and develop "Guidelines for the effective implementation of PR methodology" in the different involved contexts. Key processes and areas of activities will be selected together with the main relevant stakeholders, namely AL organizations, policy makers responsible for LLL policies at regional and national level, learners and social partners, sure that such participatory practice is able to activate the involvement and commitment of Formal and Non-Formal AL providers.
PR and the expected conduct of Peers as critical friends, indeed, are considered by partners as catalyst for changing their mind-set and start investing on quality. The driving objective behind a similar approach is based on the intention of contributing to a “better transparency and easier recognition of what they (adults) know, understand and are able to do” (EC, Consultation on a European Area of Skills and Qualifications, 2013-2014).