Nordic politicians are debating making school mandatory for senior citizens

Back to school.
Back to school.
Image: SeniorHøjskolen i Nørre Nissum
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Back-to-school angst isn’t just for kids. To keep senior citizens up with the times, several Nordic countries are currently debating a proposal to send them back to school.

“To prepare ourselves for the future we need to think out of the box,” writes Nordic Council rapporteur Poul Nielson in Proposal 7 of a new report (pdf) about the future of work in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Aaland. His proposal outlines a plan for mandatory adult education and continuing education in the region, in order to stay competitive in the global market.

A startling point in Nielson’s proposal is the word “mandatory.” He hopes to make continuous education compulsory for all, and to build it into the regular career cycle of Nordic workers.

“The combination of rapid technological development with the gradual increase in retirement age increases the need for new forms of education,” the 73-year-old Danish politician explained to EU Observer:

It is not a huge problem for the very well-educated. But with a rising pension age, people approaching 60-65 years—who still have 5–10 years more on the labour market—they should have the opportunity to refresh their skills seriously. And as a new mandatory right.

Basically it is like lifting mandatory education to the next level.

Continuing education and adult education is not a new idea in Scandinavia. In Denmark, elderly learners can enroll in designated ”folk high schools“ that provide short-term training in subjects like history, science, literature, and math, without the pressure of exams and papers.

A 2012 EU report on aging (pdf, p. 20) gives Nielson’s proposal urgency: The number of people aged 80 years and up in Europe is projected to nearly triple from 23.7 million in 2010, to 62.4 million in 2060.

Nordic Council ministers will weigh in on Nielson’s proposal in November.