National Basic Skills Conference 20 November 2017


As part of the finalization of the GOAL project in the Netherlands, a national closing event was held. The event took place in the form of a workshop during the national basic skills conference on 20 November 2017. This conference, which was organised in the margins of the EU Vocational Skills Week, brought together nearly 600 participants – representing a broad range of stakeholders in the field of adult learning and low literacy. Thereby, the conference constituted a great opportunity to organise a workshop on GOAL, and to share the findings and related policy advice with a wide audience.


The GOAL workshop took place during one of the afternoon sessions of the conference and proved a great success. The session was moderated by Chérif Ait Abderrahman, regional coordinator of the Reading and Writing Foundation.

After a brief introduction, Jessica de Jong (project manager GOAL, Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science) gave a presentation on the GOAL project. She elaborated on the nature of the project, the project findings and key policy messages. In relation thereto, Harrie Mulder (counseller, PI Achterhoek) shared his experiences as one of the local partners in the project.

As the final national report states that in the Dutch approach to low literacy, cooperation in and between organisations is crucial, Anneke Jansen (language centre Zwolle) was invited to share her experience in this regard. In Zwolle, strong cooperation exists between the various stakeholders in the field of adult learning and low literacy, including the municipality, employers, social services and educational institutions.

Following the various presentations, participants were invited to proactively engage in two case studies linked to the key policy messages of the GOAL project. Each participant was assigned a specific role, on the basis of which they had to engage in the cases. Roles corresponded to the various stakeholders in adult education and low literacy, including the municipality, a social service, an employer, an educational institution, and a person with low literacy. Participants responded very positively to the interactive part of the workshop en felt themselves truly challenged in their thinking process.

The session ended with a Q&A session. Amongst others, the question was raised what the most relevant good practices from other partner countries in the project were. In response thereto, Jessica de Jong highlighted several examples, including the tools that have been developed in various partner countries.

Narrative report of the project GOAL closing conference
'Guidance and Counselling for low educated adults: from practice to policy' , Egmont Palace, Brussels on 17 and 18 January 2018.

Guest speakers

(Click on a name to view the presentation or go to the overview of speakers' presentation slides)

The presentations by guest speakers at the GOAL closing conference situated the project within the wider context and policy landscape, and in doing so demonstrated the potential reach and benefits of adult guidance.

Dirk Van Damme of the OECD spoke about the opportunities that come throughout the life course for individuals to overcome educational inequality and disadvantage. Adult education in itself is not the great equaliser, as those with greater skills and levels of education are more likely to participate. He made delegates think about the role that guidance can play at these junctures, and in particular of the importance of challenging low-educated adults to use their skills and to learn. It is important to bear in mind that people are not condemned; there is the possibility of upward education mobility.

We were reminded by Dana Bachmann (DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) of the complexity and diversity of the low-educated population which, for example, includes many adults in employment. These adults too are in need of support and guidance to access opportunity, and support should be given regardless of employment status. Guidance has a critical role to play in matching people to opportunities and supporting people to access opportunities. A holistic approach, which builds on the synergies between other policy areas, could help to make results sustainable.

We learned from Dr Ellen Boeren of the University of Edinburgh that educational participation is also a complex issue not an individual matter, bringing in psychological, sociological and economic dimensions. Her discussion of the informational barriers faced by adults seeking to participate in education was particularly resonant to the GOAL project. She introduced delegates to her notion of the interplay between three cogs that turn together for participation – individuals, learning providers and countries.

Raimo Vuorinen of the Finnish Institute for Educational Research argued that adult guidance was the lubricant between these cogs. He also reminded delegates that adult guidance is changing; not only in the sense that ICT developments are changing the ways in which guidance is delivered and accessed, but also the ways in which we think about and talk about guidance, especially with a shift in discourse from supply to demand. This has an impact on how the benefits of guidance can be communicated and advocated: language should be used that promotes guidance as a solution to the challenges the EC faces in lifelong learning, mobility and employment. Above all, in cross-sectoral work, the focus should be the outcomes of guidance for the client, and not on the roles of the various collaborators.

Professor John Holford, University of Nottingham, argued that although a government commitment to breadth in education is required to improve participation this is not happening in adult education. Rather, over the past decades, political focus has narrowed in on education for employment’s sake; but this “vocationalism” is not increasing overall participation rates. Education should be for all, and all the benefits of education should be shared, but this cannot happen without stability in educational institutions, in structures and in systems. The equality that educational guidance encourages is also dependent on stability.

GOAL key findings and messages

The focal point of the event was the presentation of the key findings of the GOAL evaluation, including key messages for future programme and policy development on the topic of adult guidance. After an introduction to the GOAL project by project coordinator Nadia Reynders (Department of Education and Training, Flanders) the findings were presented by JD Carpentieri of the Institute of Education (University College London). The most important overall message related to the readiness not only of participants but also of programme and policy in order to obtain successful outcomes:

Clients in the GOAL project exhibited different levels of “readiness” to enter education or training. Some clients had relatively clear ideas of their educational goals and the steps they needed to take to achieve those goals. These clients demonstrated a big willingness of entering education and primarily needed information from their counsellors to navigate the adult education landscape. Other clients were less clear and/or less motivated, and needed more support and guidance, whereas a third category of clients faced particularly significant personal barriers, including poor psychological and/or physical health, substance abuse problems and social isolation. These clients were unlikely to achieve measurable educational or employment outcomes without making progress in a range of personal and psychological areas first. However, even for these vulnerable clients it was possible to make progress on “stepping stone” outcomes such as improved self-belief or self-esteem.

Programme readiness captures the degree to which the guidance service was able to address the client’s needs. GOAL clients benefitted from a counselling model in which digestible and actionable amounts of information were provided in different sessions; it was important to avoid overwhelming clients with too much information and too many challenges in one session. This was particularly important given GOAL’s emphasis on putting clients in the driver’s seat, i.e. ensuring that clients made their own decisions rather than just following the counsellor’s lead. Overall, the quality of counselling appeared to be high and clients demonstrated high levels of satisfaction. However, single-sessions counselling models were not as beneficial for most clients as multi-session models – even motivated clients typically required multiple sessions to get the appropriate level of information and support. Therefore, it is key for future programme development to match the counselling model to client needs, while considering available programme resources.

However, no matter how ready clients are to improve their lives, and no matter how ready counsellors are to help them find and navigate the most appropriate path towards doing so, it is generally impossible to overcome a lack of policy readiness. In the absence of the provision of free or heavily subsidised adult education courses, it is not possible for low-income individuals to act on their educational ambitions. However, where such provision does exist, it does appear that an educational guidance service, such as GOAL, is able to help significant numbers of low-educated clients to enrol on adult education courses.

Parallel sessions

After the presentation of the evaluation results, three parallel breakout sessions were held, which moved from the broad perspective of the cross-country findings and zoomed into the six individual GOAL projects, focusing on how programme implementation went for developers, counsellors and clients. In each session GOAL participants reported on their experiences, and video interviews with staff and clients in Flanders were played which illustrated the GOAL journey and highlighted the role adult guidance can play in sustaining motivation, building resilience, empowering and supporting low-educated adults to take steps towards education success.

Session 1 looked at the multiple and complex policy landscapes that provided the context for GOAL. Programme developers and staff from Iceland reported on the challenges they had faced in reaching out to a particularly vulnerable client group who had no history of coming to guidance services, despite their clear need. Questions were raised about whose responsibility it should be to pay for services for those adults who do not come to guidance through traditional referral route.

Examples from Flanders underscored that working with low educated adults, many of whom have complex lives, necessitates the involvement of a range of stakeholders and institutions, and that this process would be more effective and sustainable were there a structuralised system in place that formalised the existing informal arrangements, something that was not achieved in the life of the GOAL project.

The Slovenian experience offered an example of how cross-ministerial working might operate, in their case to unite ministries with a vested interest in raising adult skills levels. This ambition tapped into themes that had emerged earlier in the day’s discussions: delegates heard how the benefits to adults of educational participation extend into many areas: employment obviously, but also social integrations, civic participation, health and wellbeing and so forth. The GOAL evaluation report called attention to what have been referred to as “wicked policy problems”, that is, multi-domain problems that cannot be successfully addressed via only one policy area and/or programme intervention. What such problems require is joined-up policy work: GOAL offers an example of this at a local level.

Session 2 focused on the guidance services themselves. The video testimonies in this session highlighted that for some clients, especially clients in the younger age groups, the counsellor played a critical motivation role, supporting the client to persist in guidance and in education.

A counsellor from the Czech Republic explained how their service was developed from scratch, describing the training she had undertaken in order to be able to offer individual sessions to clients, and the cooperation that was developed with the local Labour Office. Programme developers from Slovenia reported that the capacity of their guidance service to offer multiple sessions was a cornerstone in sustaining motivation for their client target groups.

Icelandic colleagues explained how their service was targeted at adults who had not yet demonstrated any motivation to learning. Counsellors reported that it was unrealistic to focus on the outcome of educational enrolment, at least at this stage. Instead their focus was on working towards and encouraging clients to take the necessary and achievable steps towards progress, steps such as becoming punctual, and overcoming feelings of educational failure.

Session 3 turned to partnerships and networks. Project countries talked about the different approaches taken towards partner relationships. A video testimony from Flanders described how partnerships were sustained through frequent and often informal contacts. Relationships were characterised by friendly, mutual cooperation, spontaneous communication and frequent collaboration. In contrast, Slovenian programme developers described the work they had done in establishing formal regional networks there, where agreements were signed and roles and tasks were defined.

Both models met with successes and both brought challenges. Informal arrangements lack sustainability, especially where it is not clear where lines or responsibility lie. Formal networks can be damaged where levels of activity and commitment vary between partners. Examples from the Czech Republic, where there was very successful collaboration with the employment offices underscored two messages: 1) the key to effective partnership working is a joined focus on client outcomes not on organisational objectives; 2) the key to working successfully for good client outcomes is trust.

Project GOAL slotconferentie

Leerloopbaanbegeleiding in Vlaanderen: van project naar beleid

Op 19 januari verwelkomde het Vlaamse GOAL projectteam een 90-tal deelnemers voor haar slotconferentie in het Egmont Paleis te Brussel. Bekijk de aftermovie hieronder. Foto’s van de conferentie vindt u in dit fotoalbum.

Lees het volledige verslag:

Na een welkomstwoord vanuit het Departement Onderwijs en Vorming, ging de dag van start met een inleidende presentatie door Erik Ballhausen (Erasmus+ Unit - Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA)) en een presentatie van Heiddi Knipprath  (HIVA onderzoeksinstituut voor werk en samenleving KULeuven) over de arbeidsmarkt van de toekomst en de consequenties voor strategieën rond levenslang leren.

Nadia Reynders (projectcoördinator GOAL zowel op Vlaams als op internationaal niveau) gaf een inleiding tot de ruimere opzet van project GOAL en de specifieke invulling van het beleidsexperiment in Vlaanderen. Vervolgens presenteerde Kathleen Hoefnagels (voormalig onderzoekster bij Tempera en leidend onderzoekers van de Vlaamse GOAL evaluatie) de bevindingen van het project voor Vlaanderen.

De namiddag ging van start met getuigenissen van de leerloopbaanbegeleiders van Word Wijs! (De Stap, Gent) en Leerwinkel West-Vlaanderen over het traject dat enkele van hun GOAL cliënten bewandelden. Daarna werd de overstap gemaakt van een projectmatige benadering naar een meer beleidsgeoriënteerde blik, met twee panelgesprekken. Een eerste panel met lokale projectpartners (VDAB, IN-Gent) en lokale beleidsmakers (Stad Gent, Provincie West-Vlaanderen) belichtte de werking van de dienstverlening in de praktijk. Panelleden beschreven de complementariteit van de leerloopbaanbegeleiding met andere (niet onderwijsgerichte) begeleidingsdiensten, alsook het succes van de doorverwijzing van lokale partners naar de dienstverlening. Lokale beleidsactoren deelden hun positieve ervaringen met de dienstverleningen en benadrukten hun meerwaarde en de positieve lokale impact vanuit beleidsperspectief. Bovendien pleitten ze voor structurele financiering vanuit het Vlaamse niveau.

Tussen de twee panels stelde Liesbet Vermandere (beleidsondersteuner op het Departement Onderwijs en Vorming en voorzitter van het GOAL Adviescomité) ‘Een blauwdruk voor leerloopbaanbegeleiding in Vlaanderen en Brussel’ voor. Deze adviestekst die binnen het GOAL Adviescomité tot stand kwam, omschrijft de basisprincipes voor de werking en organisatie van de dienstverlening en biedt de politiek een gefundeerde basis voor verdere beleidsontwikkeling rond het thema.

De presentatie werd gevolg door een tweede beleidsgericht panel met vertegenwoordigers uit het Adviescomité (Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen, GO! onderwijs van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, IN-Gent vzw/Agentschap Inburgering en Integratie) en stakeholders uit het arbeidsveld (Sterpunt Inclusief Ondernemen, SERV/ACV). De aanwezige onderwijskoepels riepen de Vlaamse Overheid op om structureel middelen vrij te maken voor de ontwikkeling van leerloopbaanbegeleiding. Bovendien onderstreepten ze de nood aan een dergelijke dienstverlening, niet enkel om te remediëren bij schooluitval en uitvallers terug op weg te helpen naar een diploma, maar evenzeer om het volledige onderwijsaanbod overzienbaar te maken voor alle volwassenen met leervragen.

Vertegenwoordigers uit het arbeidsveld spraken eveneens hun steun uit voor de leerloopbaanbegeleiding als een complementaire dienst aan de bestaande loopbaanbegeleiding. Ze benadrukten het belang om ook werkgevers volop te betrekken bij de verdere ontwikkeling van de dienstverlening die ook op de werkvloer toegankelijk moet zijn. De vertegenwoordiger uit de integratiesector riep op om de dienstverlening Vlaanderenbreed uit te rollen om nieuwkomers optimaal te ondersteunen in het ontwikkelen van hun potentieel op het gebied van onderwijs. Leerloopbaanbegeleiding zou een welkome ondersteuning zijn voor de begeleiders uit de integratie- en inburgeringssector. Des te meer, nu de sector onder grotere werkdruk dreigt te komen als gevolg van de geplande inkrimping van het personeelsbestand.

Hoewel Vlaams minister van onderwijs, Hilde Crevits, verhinderd was om de conferentie bij te wonen, sprak ze zich in een boodschap uit over het belang van sterke ondersteuning en begeleiding bij het maken van een opleidingskeuze. Bovendien bedankte de minister het GOAL Adviescomité voor het verrichtte werk vanuit verschillende beleidsdomeinen en liet weten advies te zullen inwinnen bij VLOR en SERV wat betreft de organisatie van een dienstverlening voor leerloopbaanbegeleiding.

Eén boodschap kwam doorheen de dag nadrukkelijk naar voor, zowel doorheen de presentaties als tijdens de panelgesprekken: ondanks een breed, flexibel en betaalbaar opleidingsaanbod voor volwassenen is het veld van de volwasseneneducatie voor velen te complex om hierin zelf de weg te vinden. In deze context kan een dienst voor leerloopbaanbegeleiding beschouwd worden als de missing link om ervoor te zorgen dat volwasseneneducatie in Vlaanderen haar volledige potentieel bereikt. Bovendien toonde project GOAL aan dat de dienstverlening niet enkel het onderwijsaanbod aanbelangt: waar de dienstverlening bestaan, spreken lokale partnerorganisaties en stakeholders zich eensluidend positief uit over de complementariteit en meerwaarde zowel voor de eigen organisatie als vanuit maatschappelijk perspectief.

Het GOAL projectteam hoopt dat de projectresultaten en de blauwdruk voor leerloopbaanbegeleiding een waardevolle bijdrage zullen vormen voor toekomstige beleidsontwikkeling en dat de uitbouw van de dienstverlening integraal onderdeel zal uitmaken van het Regeerakkoord van de volgende Vlaamse Regering.

Lees de Blauwdruk voor leerloopbaanbegeleiding in Vlaanderen en Brussel.

Bezoek voor een volledig overzicht van de Vlaamse onderzoeksresultaten of klik meteen door naar GOAL National Evaluation Report Flanders of de Nederlandstalige samenvatting

National final conference and working meeting with stakeholders in Iceland

The national final conference of the GOAL project took place in Iceland on December 14th with a total of 50 participants representing policy level, organisations and practitioners. Ms. Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, minister of education, science and culture opened the conference and spoke about the importance of Lifelong learning and a holistic approach regarding Lifelong career guidance. The project aims and focus were presented along with the main findings from the GOAL research. Career counsellors from the participating Lifelong learning centres Mímir and MSS presented the guidance experience in the project and challenges identified. Cooperative partners presented their experience of the cooperation and described the services they provide to the target group. A panel of stakeholders answered questions from conference participants where it became quite evident that common efforts are needed towards more seamless services and a continuing focus on identifying ways to reach out with appropriate guidance and support.

A working meeting was held with a group of 20 stakeholders in the afternoon. Discussions evolved around how to take the project further. A list of prioritized next steps was identified along with a common agreement on the continuation of the Advisory group for the development of further policy and cooperation.

See news on the ETSC website about the conference:

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GOAL closing conference Flanders

Educational guidance in Flanders: from practice to policy

On January 19 the Flemish GOAL project team welcomed around 90 participants for its national closing conference which took place at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. View the aftermovie of the event below. Pictures can be viewed in this photo album.

Read the full event report:

After participants were welcomed by the Department of Education and Training, the day started off with an introductory presentation by Erik Ballhausen (Erasmus+ Unit - Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA)) and a presentation by Heiddi Knipprath (HIVA research institute for work and society - KU Leuven University) about the future labour market and its implications for lifelong learning strategies. 

Nadia Reynders (GOAL project coordinator both at Flemish and international project level) gave participants an introduction to the broader set-up of GOAL and the specifics of the policy experimentations in Flanders, before Kathleen Hoefnagels (former researcher at Tempera and lead researcher for the Flemish GOAL evaluation) presented the project results for Flanders. 

The afternoon started with two project GOAL counsellors sharing stories about the guidance pathways of project GOAL clients. Afterwards the conference switched from a project-oriented focus towards the policy level with the organisation of different panel discussions. A first panel with local programme partners (VDAB, IN-Gent) and local policy makers (Stad Gent, Provincie West-Vlaanderen) focused on the functioning of the service in practice. Panel members shedded light on the complementarity of the GOAL service with other (not education-oriented) guidance services and the successful referral system set-up with local partner organisations. Local policy makers shared their positive experiences with the service, stressing its value and positive local impact from a policy perspective and advocating the need for structural funding from the Flemish level.

In between the two panels, Liesbet Vermandere (policy advisor at the Department of Edcuation and Training and president of the GOAL Advisory Committee) presented the 'Blueprint for an educational guidance service in Flanders and Brussels', an advisory note developed within the GOAL Advisory Committee which lays down basic principles for the functioning and organisation of the service and offers the political level a strong baseline for future policy development in the area.

The presentation was followed by a second policy-oriented panel discussion with representatives from the Advisory Committee (Katholiek Onderwijs Vlaanderen, GO! onderwijs van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, IN-Gent vzw/Agentschap Inburgering en Integratie) and other stakeholders from the domain of employment (Sterpunt Inclusief Ondernemen, SERV/ACV). Representatives from the educational sector called out to the Flemish government to invest structurally in the development of an educational guidance service, stressing the need for said service not only to reengage adults who have dropped out from the educational system but to open up all educational possibilities to each adult with learning needs.

Representatives from the employment sector equally spoke out their support for an educational guidance service as a complementary service to career guidance, emphasizing the importance of involving employers in the future development of the service and of making the service accessible in the workplace. The representative from the domain of integration called out for the deployment of the service throughout Flanders to support newcomers maximally in developing their full potential on an educational level. The guidance service would be a welcome support for counsellors from the Flemish integration sector, all the more so as the sector might be subject to higher pressure following the government's intentions to shrink its capacity.

Though Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister of Education, was unable to attend the conference in person, she spoke out in a message about the relevance of providing guidance to learners. Moreover, the Minister expressed appreciation for the work performed by the GOAL Advisory Committee across policy areas and informed that she would consult both the Education Council (VLOR) and the Social and Economic Council (SERV) to seek further advice regarding the organisation and set-up of educational guidance services.

One main message was echoed throughout the day both in the presentations as during the panel: in spite of an broad, flexible and affordable adult educational offer the field of adult education is too complex for many adult learners to find their way. Within this context, an educational guidance service would constitute the missing link for the Flemish adult education system to reach its full potential. Moreover, project GOAL demonstrated that the demand for the service exists not only in the educational field: where the GOAL services are implemented, partner organisations and local stakeholders are unanimously positive about its added value both to their organisation as to society at large.

The GOAL project team expresses its hopes that the results from project GOAL and the resulting blueprint for educational guidance will provide a significant contribution to future policy development and that development of the service will form an integral part of the Government Agreement of the next Flemish Government.

Read the Blueprint for educational guidance in Flanders and Brussels

Visit for the full evaluation results. Or move directly to the GOAL National Evaluation Report Flanders or the Flemish summary.