Panel C.01 — Adult learning and education for a socially just society: appraising policy and practice

Convenors Marcella Milana (University of Verona, Italy); Margherita Bussi (UCLouvain, Belgium); Borut Mikulec (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Keywords adult education, adult learning, policy, practice, social justice


The purpose of this panel is to encourage debate and progress on researching how adult education policy and learning practices at local, national and international levels contribute to, or hamper, the development of a more socially just society.

Internationally, adult learning and education has been on the raise in the current millennium with the UNESCO Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education (2015), the increased monitoring of policy developments through the five Global Report on Adult Learning and Education published to date, and the recent commitment to the Marrakesh Framework for Action at the VII International Conference on Adult Education (2022).

Paralleling these global framing, at European level adult learning has turned into a fully-fledged policy domain (Milana & Klatt, 2019), influenced by labour, economic and social concerns, with a Council’s European Agenda on adult learning that, adopted in the post-2010 Eurozone Crisis (2011), has been renewed during the COVID-19 pandemic (2021) (e.g., Milana & Mikulec, 2023).

Under these different ideational frameworks, governments are increasingly committing themselves to support the expansion of adult learning and education in Europe and globally. But when we consider adult education policy and learning practices within the same countries, a different picture emerges. In several countries adult learning and education hold a weak position in policy agendas, in others there is a discrepancy between policy declarations and implementation, and often learning opportunities, following an economistic logic (Torres, 2013), become oppressive rather than liberating practices and contribute to inequalities (e.g., Milana, Rasmussen, & Bussi, exp. 2024).

Meanwhile, in the current context of local and transnational challenges, where existing democratic regimes are increasingly questioned by raising populist, anti-democratic initiatives and warfare attitudes, the ‘capability for voice’ – what allow people “to have their say and make it count when it comes to designing and implementing collective decisions and regulations” (Bonvin, 2012, p. 10) has become key for citizens (at micro-level), institutions (meso-level), and civil society (at macro-level) to gain a voice in the various settings in which they operate.

This panel encourages contributions that look from a social justice perspective at policies, governance settings and practices targeting 16+ youth and adults in various educational contexts – formal, non-formal, and informal. Themes may cover: i) inequality in adult education and the crises of democracies ; ii) the globalization of social injustice and adult education; iii) adult education policy and inequality contrast; iv) disability, adult education and social justice; v) young adults and social (in)justice; vi) adult education, technology, and social (in)justice; vii) social justice, adult education and the ecological crisis; vii) social justice, adult education and inclusive communities.

This panel accepts contributions of a theoretical nature – based on humanistic, critical/radical, post-humanist, or indigenous discourses, among others (cf. Wildemeersch, Guimarães, & Fejes, 2023) – that expand social justice conceptualisations, empirical contributions grounded in qualitative or quantitative evidence from a local/national, international or cross-national perspective, and methodological contributions that advance new ways to put adult education policy and learning practices under scrutiny from a social justice perspective.


Guidelines and abstracts submission