From Literacy and employment-orientated basic education to basic education for employment

As in highly developed industrial countries everywhere, the trend in Europe is towards an increase in the demands placed on the individual at work and in their everyday life. A higher degree of personal responsibility, better qualifications and personal and methodical competences and a concomitant higher level of education are all prerequisites for successful inclusion in society and at the workplace.

Anyone who does not meet these expectations must expect negative social consequences. Those who have not developed their written and spoken competences (literacy) to a high enough level in school, or are unable to adjust these to the ever increasing demands placed on them, will fail to meet these requirements and as a result will suffer, both socially and in the labour market, this latter particularly.

Terminology such as literacy and functional illiteracy become increasingly problematic in this context, as in some circumstances, they can be perceived as discriminating and stigmatising themselves. In addition, in the public mind, often only the process of acquiring writing skills is understood by the term literacy, but that only makes up a part (albeit an indispensable one) of the basic education required these days.

In a knowledge-based society another skill which belongs to the ‘traditional’ cultural techniques of reading, writing and arithmetic, is what we might call user competence in dealing with media. Here the term media can be defined loosely: it can include anything from use of a mobile phone to programming a television to any number of different PC-supported applications, software and use of internet search-engines every day at work.

A lack of basic education leads to a high risk of poverty and makes the integration into the world of work more difficult, as it blocks access to vocational qualifications.

For poorly qualified individuals in employment the question is raised - how can they continue to fulfil the growing demands of the labour market? For those who are not integrated into the job market the question is – what are the approaches to continued learning which will aid their integration?

An appropriate basic education must therefore promote individual identity, but must also qualify the individual for work. Learning and (vocational) practice must be more closely interwoven with one another; a balanced learning process must include business and training.