It’s time we lived up to our commitments on adult education

The fourth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education represents a wake-up call to countries to do more to advance participation in adult education – we need to heed it, says David Atchoarena

Published by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the new Global Report on Adult Learning and Education GRALE 4 – is a landmark publication in the field of adult learning and education (ALE) for the international education policy community.

The report charts UNESCO Member States’ progress against the commitments made at the sixth International Conference on Adult Education in 2009 and codified in the Belém Framework for Action, with a special emphasis, in this report, on participation in ALE. The story it tells is in some ways a positive one – more than half of responding countries reported an increase in overall participation between 2015 and 2018 – but the overwhelming message is that participation is still far too low, and that progress, overall, is insufficient, particularly among disadvantaged groups. Investment too is far from where it needs to be, with one in five countries reporting spending less than 0.5% of their education budgets on ALE and a further 14% spending less than 1%. Continue reading

Leave no one behind: Fighting poverty through lifelong learning

Konstantinos Pagratis reflects on how education can support the global struggle to end poverty

© UNESCO/Iason Athanasiadis

Last week, the world marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere – and to highlight the complex, multidimensional nature of the challenges we face in achieving it.

Education is not a silver bullet when it comes to ending poverty, but it has a crucial role to play, both in securing SDG 1 and in fulfilling the commitment made by Member States in signing up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.

UNESCO believes that the fight against poverty demands the strengthening of individuals’ capacities through education, which represents a source not only of employment but also of pride, dignity and agency. As Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of UNESCO, observes, ‘for each year a girl spends in the classroom, her future income will increase by 10 to 20 per cent’. Continue reading

Transforming education

As we mark International Youth Day, David Atchoarena reflects on the challenge of ‘transforming education’ for young people and on how we can gear their leaning not only to employment but also to sustainable development

© UNESCO

‘Transforming education’ is the theme of International Youth Day 2019, celebrated on 15 July. The focus is on making education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, in particular young women and young people from disadvantaged groups. Taking place within the framework of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, the theme chosen for this year’s International Youth Day goes beyond the usual meaning of education to embrace a vision of learning throughout life, so that youth can fully take part in a lifelong journey for sustainable development.

Although there are variations between countries and between different categories of young people, work continues to constitute an important dimension in the way in which young people see their future. However, beyond their individual situation, young people also increasingly express a concern for the future of the planet. This is reflected in their attitude and participation in society, as citizens and as workers. The meaning of work and its contribution to a sustainable path are important considerations in the way in which youth see employment. Hence, the debate about youth skills is not only about skills for work and life, it is about skills for sustainability and social participation. Continue reading

Acting together for refugees and migrants

World Refugee Day 2019 is an opportunity to reject the language of hate and express our solidarity with those living in exile – it is also a chance to think about how education can support migrants and refugees in making better lives for themselves, writes Konstantinos Pagratis

Two Burmese refugee boys at a temporary shelter in Thailand © Seipoe/Shutterstock

World Refugee Day, which falls every year on 20 June, promotes awareness of the plight of refugees and reminds us of our common humanity, of the commitments we have made and of the urgent need to keep them. At UIL, it prompts us to reflect on the kinds of educational opportunities available to refugees and migrants and the best approaches we can take in helping them integrate and flourish in their host societies.

The 2018 Global Compact on Refugees and the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, Building Bridges, Not Walls, highlight relevant international efforts to integrate migrants and refugees into the formal education system. But there has been too little action, at the local, national or international level, to address the educational needs of migrating, displaced and hosting populations, or to coordinate actions to ensure education supports people in entering the world of work and participating fully in their host communities. Continue reading

Learning to live differently: Climate change and lifelong learning

As we mark World Environment Day 2019, Jennifer Kearns-Willerich argues that lifelong learning must be at the heart of our efforts to live sustainably

© UNESCO

The significant gap between where we are today and where we want to be by 2030 is nowhere more evident that on the issue of climate change.

As the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report, Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all, observed, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s call for ‘urgent action on climate change’ to ‘support the needs of the present and future generations’, is some way from being heeded, with environmental sustainability a still-distant prospect and the gears of policy still seemingly stuck in neutral when it comes to the climate crisis.

Education and lifelong learning, the report contended, have a central role to play ‘in the creation of a green and inclusive economy with sustainable models of production and consumption, and new and retooled sectors, industries and jobs’. They also have an important part to play in changing hearts and minds and galvanizing political will. Continue reading

Lifelong learning and the SDGs

The SDG Global Festival of Action shows exactly why lifelong learning matters to the SDG agenda, argues Paul Stanistreet

© SDG Action Campaign

As young people around the world raise their voices to call for action on climate change, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Global Festival of Action seems especially timely.

This important annual event, which is taking place in Bonn, Germany, is intended to bring together and galvanize campaigners on the SDGs to redouble their efforts, forge new partnerships and, above all, take action to support the global movement for sustainability. The festival encourages leaders from governments, local authorities, international organizations and civil society to work closely with activists, youth advocates, the creative industry and the private sector in scaling up their efforts to make a difference to this critical agenda.

The event sends an important message: unless people are prepared to take action themselves – to campaign, lobby, make changes in their own lives and in their communities, and hold their governments to account for the promises they have made, and do so in a coordinated, coherent way – we will not achieve the SDGs. Continue reading

Making hope possible: Democracy, sustainability and lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has a key role to play not only in achieving SDG 4 on education but also in creating a climate in which progressive change is possible, writes Paul Stanistreet

© UIL

Last week, the Comparative International Education Society (CIES) convened in San Francisco for its annual conference, which this year focused on ‘Education for Sustainability’.

Jeffrey Sachs, the economist, UN adviser and sustainability advocate, gave the keynote lecture. He demanded urgent action to address the challenges of sustainability and specifically to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development targets for education. Without a major change of pace or direction, he warned, the targets for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 would not be met.

Sachs is right to urge educators to ‘raise their voices’ and’ fight harder for resources’. However, the contribution of education to the sustainable development agenda will not be realized simply by raising more taxes from the very wealthy or by demanding or securing more funding for schools, important though this is. We need to think too about the role of education in shifting the cultural and intellectual climate to a place where political will can be moved and meaningful change in the face of powerful, entrenched interests is possible. Continue reading

Realizing the potential of lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has a major contribution to make to helping countries such as Greece rise to the development challenges they face. But, far too often, it is overlooked, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

A Syrian man and his daughter at a refugee camp in Idomeni in northern Greece.
© Giannis Papanikos/Shutterstock

In Greece, my native country, high unemployment and the ongoing financial crisis are combining with mass population movements of migrants and refugees to create huge development challenges for the country. Greece is also undergoing major demographic changes, with its ageing population reducing the number of young people entering the labour market and obliging those already in the workforce to work for longer and move between jobs more often.

These facts point to an urgent need for a much stronger investment in lifelong learning, and particularly in adult education. By supporting adult education and adopting lifelong learning as the key educational paradigm for inclusive and sustainable learning societies, nation states can build populations that are resilient, adaptable, creative and highly skilled. Yet, in far too many cases, lifelong learning and adult education continue to be neglected.

A recent report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Getting skills right: Future-ready adult learning systems, shows that Greece’s adult learning system performs poorly across several dimensions of the Priorities of Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard. The PAL dashboard indicates that my country has the weakest overall performance in terms of coverage of job-related adult learning. In addition, according to Eurostat, only a few adults re-skill through adult education courses in Greece. In 2017, less than 5 per cent of 25 to 64 years olds participated in such courses. Where these courses are offered, often they are often under-resourced and ill-equipped to address the challenges faced by these students. Continue reading

Making the most of lifelong learning

Malak Zaalouk, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, explains why lifelong learning is at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and why it should be central to the plans and policies of nation states

© Asian Development Bank

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 puts lifelong learning at the heart of the global education policy-making agenda by enjoining Member States to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

This is already important recognition. However, we have yet to fully realize the potential contribution of lifelong learning either to SDG 4 or to the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This demands the development of inter-sectoral solutions to challenges such as social exclusion, poverty, climate change, mass migration and technological transformation.. Continue reading

What puts women off STEM?

© UNESCO

As the world marks International Women’s Day, Samah Shalaby asks how we can increase female participation in STEM and challenge the stereotypes that hold women back

Despite ongoing efforts to encourage girls and women to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), they still lag substantially behind their male counterparts. According to UNESCO, women account for only 35 per cent of learners studying STEM subjects in higher education. Within the female student population, only 30 per cent choose STEM-related subjects, with female participation particularly low in ICT (3 per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 per cent) and engineering, manufacturing and construction (8 per cent).

This article, published to coincide with International Women’s Day, considers the causes of this gender gap and what we can do to close it, drawing on the perspectives of both men and women. Understandably, most studies of this issue focus predominately on the female perspective. However, it is also worth exploring the male understanding of this issue, especially as STEM fields are frequently characterized as male domains, and this may be one of the factors explaining low levels of female participation. I interviewed two men and two woman, all working in the fields of engineering and technology. Continue reading