North America and Europe have similar forms of government, face similar challenges, and often share adult education policy responses. As adult education policy researchers, we have studied our nation’s policies and often those of influential transnational actors like the OECD; yet we still have much to learn from each other in examining differing national trends and initiatives from across the two continents. This symposium seeks to further understanding of differences and commonalities of recent adult education policy in the US, Canada, Italy, and Germany. Our respective pieces highlight commonalities and differences in recent adult education policy across two North American and two European countries. There are shared challenges to which adult education policy has been presented as a response: automation, un(der)employment, social dislocation, immigration, increasing inequality and insecurity etc. There are also shared policy conversations centring on: a concern for ‘skills;’ numbers and assessment; and, on placing greater responsibility for adult education on the individual, educational providers, and workplaces. Yet, as we show, what is understood as adult education policy can differ widely and emphases are placed on different issues, such as the European concern for ‘social cohesion’ versus the overriding economic imperative in America. We are also mindful of the massive government spending that has occurred over the pandemic across all four countries (including the provision of training benefits and initiatives) which has further challenged the inevitability and workability of a neoliberal approach to social policy. And, if we were to present our symposium in five years’ time, we may tell a very different story than the ones below!
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