Community Education – How Communities Change Through Learning
The ERASMUS+ sponsored project Community Education Facilitating (CEF) supports this participation with the conception of continuing education for "CE-facilitators". Preliminary training is prepared for professionals who carry this approach into the communities and regions.
Both forms of training aim to promote the recognition of so-called community education and development with the structured cross-border approach.
- What is community education?
There have been many unsuccessful attempts to define community education within a narrow framework, which shows how flexible and situational the application of CE can be and the different ways in which CE can be visualised.
The common aspect of all definitions is that CE attempts to link life-accompanying learning with social purposes. The following description exists in our partner country Scotland where CE already has a long-standing tradition: "CLD (Community Learning Development) refers to learning and social development of individuals and groups within their communities as a broad spectrum of formal and informal methods is used. A common feature of community learning development is that programmes and activities are developed jointly with the communities and the participants in a dialogue. Individuals and communities are to be enabled ('empowered') by learning to make positive changes in their lives and communities while being supported by community-based learning and activities in the community".
Thus, core characteristics are:
- Working and learning in a partnership
- Participation and equal rights
- Empowerment and self-efficacy confidence
- Inclusion of disadvantaged groups
- Process-oriented access
Community education can only succeed if the requirements of individuals in the community are addressed. As Paulo Freire said, it is not about working for but with people.
A work group in Austria is also attempting to provide a more profound description of CE. Accordingly, CE aims to solve problems and/or improve living situations. Community education should enable people to manage their own affairs and the affairs of the community independently while improving their living situation. Learning is most often achieved jointly in the form of informal learning. However, learning must be reflected structurally in order to justify the term "education". Informal learning in the sense of learning through lectures or in courses with curricula can support the learning process, which is otherwise structured from the bottom up or at least guided by the community in a strongly participatory manner. Processuality is another characteristic criterion. The learning process is designed as community-guided. Content, goals, but also the structural framework are determined by the community. Therefore, the person accompanying the learning process must be capable of working in a problem-oriented manner and crossing own disciplinary boundaries.
- What is needed to initiate community education processes?
Interactive framework conditions and a joint goal, which is beneficial to all involved parties and increases the quality of life, is required to initiate community education. CE processes are characterised by different framework conditions, which can interact with each other and are often essential for the implementation of CE in different combinations and with varying emphases. Lifelong learning as a principle of CE processes is understood in this context as learning together and from each other throughout all age groups and social classes. Thus, learning is a social and self-regulated process. CE as a promotional instrument for social cohesion promotes individual and collective learning.
The need for more social integration of groups within society, but also the approach to strengthen self-initiative and participation is accounted for on an individual level. We are taking new paths in the development of needs-based offers. In further consequence, participation and dedication to one's environment is strengthened through the promotion of collective learning processes. Educational processes that are set in motion result in greater ambiguity tolerance and improved self-efficacy confidence. Residents are supported in visualising their strengths and developmental potential.
On a collective level this contributes to the improvement of social capital as the community is strengthened and togetherness promoted.
The establishment of a community education facilitator, who works at the intersection point and as a motor for regional educational work and the establishment of a community activist, who applies himself on a local level in the work and structuring of local communities and initiates educational processes. Both systems work closely together and are interrelated; they cannot exist independently of each other.
- What is a community education facilitator (CEF),
or a community activist (CA)?
A CEF acts as an interface and trainer for the CAs. The CEF organises continuing education courses, develops educational strategies and raises awareness for education. CEFs are persons employed in regional adult education or regional development.
Continuing education as a CEF includes a total of six modules while the sixth module addresses continuing education as a CA.
CAs are volunteers engaged in your community who want to receive pertinent continuing education in order to manage development processes in your community. Continuing education that empowers CAs to develop and promote educational processes in communities is conceptualised.
 Community education has been expanded in Scotland to include the term 'development', which is incorporated in the project.
 In this context, social work speaks of empowerment: The term 'empowerment' stands for self-empowerment to shape one's own life as well as the active self-organisation of affected persons to change unfavourable living conditions. Cooperation amongst persons who have similar problems increases self-determination and control over one's own life contexts. Empowerment takes place on three levels: on the individual, the group and the structural level (Galuske 2002).