Seize the moment: Financing adult learning and education

With the UN’s Transforming Education Summit just days away, Daniel Baril, chair of the committee responsible for the final declaration of CONFINTEA VII, reflects on its important commitment to better financing of adult education and why Member States need to start delivering on it

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At the closing session of the seventh UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in June, representatives of UNESCO Member States adopted by acclamation the Marrakech Framework for Action (MFA). Commitments expressed through the MFA will guide the international debate on adult education for the next 12 years and will be among the measures by which national policies will be evaluated. Implementing the MFA is now the task awaiting national governments.

Before its final adoption, the MFA had been submitted to an extensive consultative process. First, the CONFINTEA VII consultative committee made recommendations on a preliminary draft. Second, an online public consultation gave all stakeholders the opportunity to comment on a modified draft. Finally, before being tabled at the conference, Member States had the chance to comment on a final draft. This consultative process validates the MFA as the legitimate expression of an international consensus on priorities in adult learning and education (ALE). Continue reading

A statement of intent: GRALE 5 and the Marrakech Framework for Action

The understanding of adult learning and education affirmed in GRALE 5 and at CONFINTEA VII is only the start – we must continue to make our voices heard, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

UNESCO’s Fifth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5), subtitled‘Citizenship education: Empowering adults for change’, was launched on 15 June during CONFINTEA VII, in Marrakech, Morocco.

GRALE 5 shows that although progress has been made, notably in the participation of women, the picture overall remains uneven. Vulnerable groups, those who stand to benefit most from learning opportunities, are the least likely to access them. The education of migrants, refugees and displaced people remained a low priority for most countries, while around two-thirds of countries reported no improvements in the participation of people with disabilities or prisoners. Some countries reported that participation of rural populations had declined, while participation of older adults had decreased in 38 of the 159 surveyed countries. Continue reading

Lifelong learning at the crossroads: Migration, diversity and inclusion

Transnational migration is changing the demography of receiving societies, driving the issue to the top of the policy agenda. Yet, despite their profound vulnerability and the economic potential they represent, migrants are still routinely denied access to the lifelong learning opportunities they need, writes Shibao Guo of University of Calgary

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As globalization intensifies, migration has been adopted as a strategy by many to compete for the most talented, skillful and resourceful in order to help build a knowledge-based economy, ameliorate labour shortages, and mitigate the effects of an ageing population. As such, migration has risen to the top of the political agenda of many countries that are involved in this process as a source, transit or destination country, or all three simultaneously. Unlike earlier forms of migration which tend to be unidirectional, the contemporary mobility of migrants is conceptualised as multiple and circular occurring across transnational spaces.

Because of its transient nature, it is almost impossible to know exactly how many transnational migrants there are around the world. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated that, in 2020, about 281 million people, or 4 per cent of the world’s population, lived outside their countries of birth, up from 173 million in 2000. In addition, the world’s refugees and asylum seekers have doubled in number from 17 to 34 million over the past two decades. Continue reading

ALE, climate change and good living: A Southern perspective

Repairing our broken relationship with the planet means radically rethinking how we understand the process of education and formation, argues Timothy D. Ireland

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Grand international conferences such as CONFINTEA provide an opportunity for the international community to weigh up what has and has not been achieved in the previous decade or more and, on that basis, to agree to new signposts and guidelines for the coming years. CONFINTEA VII will perhaps go down in history as the conference which took place at one of the most delicate and critical moments in recent history, since the beginning of the series in 1949. While the sanitary crisis caused by COVID-19 has gained more space in the press, the unravelling crisis which refuses to go away is that of climate change and global warming. At times like this, education is generally indicated as part of the solution. In 2022, there is a feeling that education is no longer part of the solution but a major part of the problem: more of the same will only deepen the crisis and aggravate our problems.

Over the last decades, we have seen what Paul Stanistreet calls the ‘depoliticization of education and the grim instrumentalism of neoliberal conceptions of its purpose and value’, in which the focus of education has no longer been that of preparing people for life but only for the world of work. In a similar vein, José Mujica, the former president of Uruguay, describes the process as that of transforming people into consumers and not into citizens, despite the ongoing discussion on global citizenship. The crux of the question is the relationship between the human and natural worlds, or between humanity and other forms of life. For the Brazilian Indigenous leader and philosopher Ailton Krenak, ‘Everything is nature. The cosmos is nature. Everything that I can think of is nature’. The world into which Indigenous people have resisted being incorporated is a world which has converted nature into ‘resources’ to be exploited in such a way that the market becomes ‘everything that is outside/beyond us’. Krenak returns to one of the concepts to which we have delegated the power of attempting to reduce human aggressions on the planet – sustainable development – which he describes as ‘a myth invented by the major corporations to justify the assault which they penetrate on our idea of nature’. The COVID-19 pandemic is not an externality but an organism of the planet, a virus, which has launched an attack on ‘the form of unsustainable life which we have adopted by our free choice’: a living example perhaps of what the English poet Tennyson called ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw’. We have developed a style of life which has become divorced from the living organism – Earth – characterized by its attempts to suppress diversity and to deny the plurality of forms of life, existence and habits. Continue reading

Creative writing beyond bars

As we mark World Book Day, Lisa Krolak highlights the transformative potential of creative writing in the prison context

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On World Book Day 2021, the German Prison Library Support Group (Förderverein Gefängnisbüchereien e.V.), in cooperation with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the Ministry of Justice of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the German reading project KonTEXT in Munich, implemented its first nationwide writing contest for prisoners. They were invited to write up to three pages on one or more of the following topics: life, freedom or hope. In the following months, prisoners submitted personal reflections, autobiographical writings, fiction, poetry, accounts of traumatic experiences, song texts, and more.

I was part of the small organizing committee and jury, reading and judging the nearly 400 entries from more than 300 inmates from 80 prisons and five juvenile detention centres from all over Germany. I can say for the whole jury that we were deeply touched by the contributions. Some made us laugh, some made us cry – but they all gave us an insight into the hopes, feelings and dreams of the authors and the reality of life in prison. We are grateful to the authors for sharing their life experiences, thoughts of freedom and hopes. It was moving to hear the silenced voices of people that society decided to lock away. Continue reading

Adult education for a change

Adult education has a critical role to play in combatting climate change, not only in supporting changes in behaviour but also, and much more crucially, in giving people the means to challenge, change and galvanize political will, argues Paul Stanistreet

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You know that moment in a disaster movie when a TV anchor conveys the terrible news that the world is facing a catastrophic threat and hope is all but lost. Well, it happened yesterday for real. The funny thing is, hardly anyone noticed.

4 April 2022 may go down as one of the darkest days in the late history of humanity, a marker not only of our inhuman treatment of one another, the harrowing cruelty of war, but also of our failure to act on climate change, despite a mountain of evidence and the starkest warnings yet from climate scientists that we are passing the point of no return when it comes to staving off its worst effects. Continue reading

A new social contract for education

The Futures of Education report is a chance to depart from our current ‘unsustainable path’ in education, and build new relationships, with each other, with the planet, and with technology, writes David Atchoarena

On 10 November 2021, the much-anticipated UNESCO report, Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education, was launched in Paris at the organization’s General Conference. It was prepared by the International Commission on the Futures of Education under the leadership of Her Excellency Madame Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

The report follows in the tradition of the Faure Commission’s 1972 report, Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow, and the Delors Commission’s report of 1996, Learning: The Treasure Within. Due to the rapid changes in our globalized world and the rising importance of education and lifelong learning therein, this year’s report could not come at a better time. Global challenges such as the climate crisis, technological and demographic change, and inequalities further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic require urgent action. The world is at a turning point, the members of the International Commission on the Futures of Education argue: we can continue on the current ‘unsustainable path’ or radically change course. How we respond to these challenges will determine what future lies ahead. Continue reading

Part of the solution: Lifelong learning and climate action

The United Nations COP26 climate conference is an opportunity not only to galvanize political leadership but also to reflect on the role of education and the contribution of lifelong learning to climate action, writes Paul Stanistreet

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The future isn’t what it used to be. Whereas once we imagined a future of chrome-plated, high-tech convenience, limitless space exploration and driverless vehicles scudding across the commuter-crammed skies of cities, it is now difficult to imagine any kind of long-term future human civilization as we know it. Our habits of production and consumption, our ways of living, without any sense of planetary limitations, and our fetishization of economic growth are incompatible with human survival. Humanity faces unparalleled global challenges, with the future of the climate at their heart, and the warnings, from the United Nations and others – and the consequences of further inaction – are dire.

The need for international cooperation is pretty much unprecedented; greater, I would say, than it has been at any point since the United Nations was created to promote and facilitate it. The COP26 climate change conference, held this week and next in Glasgow, is an opportunity for leaders from across the globe to discuss ways of combatting the effects of climate change and, crucially, of minimizing further warming. Yet it comes at a moment when the spirit of global cooperation has been in retreat. As UN Secretary‑General António Guterres noted last month, vaccine nationalism in the richer parts of the world is putting global recovery at risk. The pandemic has not been the cause of nationalism, of course – as in many other cases, COVID-19 has highlighted an area in which we need to do better – but it has demonstrated how the leaders of the developed world can struggle to act in a genuinely cooperative, multilateral way, even when it is in their interests to do so. Continue reading

Closing the digital divide: It’s about more than access

As the world marks International Literacy Day 2021, Esther Prins considers what it would mean to narrow the digital divide and how we can foster a more creative and critical use of technology for all

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The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed stark inequalities in access to educational opportunities, particularly those requiring digital technologies. The 2021 International Literacy Day theme, Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide, offers a chance to reflect on digital access and why it matters for human potential.

When we hear about the ‘digital divide’, we typically think of having a smartphone, other mobile devices or a computer, plus reliable and affordable internet. But access involves much more than these physical resources. In this post, I discuss more complex ways of conceptualizing access. We cannot close the digital divide only by increasing broadband internet, technology ownership and technical know-how. Youth and adults must also be able to use digital tools creatively, critically and strategically to produce new knowledge. Continue reading

Meditations on an emergency

The devastation caused by floods in Europe is a wake-up call with regard not only to climate change, but to lifelong learning too, writes Paul Stanistreet

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At the time of writing, the death toll from the sudden, catastrophic flooding in western Germany and Belgium has passed 170, with many more people reported missing. Thousands have lost their homes, after two months of rain fell in just two days, causing buildings to collapse and large swathes of terrain to be submerged under water. Roads crumbled and landslides reshaped the topography, all in a matter of hours. It was a demonstration both of the ferocious destructive power of nature and of the reality of the climate emergency.

Experts predict that extreme weather will become more common as a result of climate change. For people in the Global North, largely sheltered from the worst effects of the climate crisis that have thus far fallen disproportionately on the poorest, the events of the past week have been a shocking, heart-rending lesson. As Malu Dreyer, the Minister-President of Rhineland-Palatinate, noted, climate change is ‘not abstract any more. We are experiencing it up close and painfully’. There are no safe places; no exemptions for the wealthy. Continue reading