Stories beyond bars: Family literacy in prisons

As we mark World Book Day, Lisa Krolak highlights the transformative potential of providing incarcerated parents with the opportunity to practice literacy skills while bonding with their children

© Storybook Dads

What better way to engage a non-reading, hard-nut prisoner who lacks parenting skills and has lost contact with his kids than getting him to read Cinderella? Sharon Berry, Storybook Dads

Many prisoners are also parents, meaning that countless children worldwide are growing up with the stigma and trauma of a parent behind bars. For children forced into isolation at home by the COVID-19 pandemic, this absence can feel even more acute. Imprisoned parents also struggle with separation, particularly as they are currently not allowed to see their families in most countries. Not being able to stay in touch with their children and families can have a very negative effect on their mental health.

Programmes are needed that provide opportunities for incarcerated parents to maintain strong family connections, enabling them to play an active role in the education, learning and development of their children. Often, such programmes offer crucial learning support to prisoners, who are more likely than the rest of society to have had limited educational experience, and to have difficulties with reading and writing. Continue reading

COVID-19: Finding solutions that work for all

Educational interventions to address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic need to acknowledge the realities of life in the most disadvantaged communities if they are not to exacerbate existing inequalities, argues Rakhat Zholdoshalieva

©UNESCO/Iason Athanasiadis

The magnitude of the global health crisis, and the long-term impact it is likely to have on the economy, society and education, was unimaginable just a few weeks ago. Such crises spark understandable fear and anxiety, as we come to terms with the impact both on our physical and psychological health and on our economic, financial, environmental and social life in the months and years to come.

As someone who works in adult learning, with a focus on youth and adult literacy and people who experience multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage, I observe that many of our evolving solutions, advice, lessons and reflections ignore the reality of life for many children, youth, adults, families, communities and regions around the world. In times of massive disruption, disorientation and anxiety at global level, it is more important than ever that we do not lose sight of those who historically have been out of sight and out of mind when it comes to policies and actions. Continue reading

COVID-19: From global crisis to global citizenship

Global citizenship education has an important role to play in ensuring that the world that emerges from the COVID-19 crisis is safe, fair and inclusive, argues Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

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The spread of COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge for humanity. As well as taking a huge toll on healthcare systems around the world, it is also having a major negative impact on labour markets and economies. People get ill, many will die, but very many will also lose their jobs, and a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises will close.

The heaviest price will be paid by those who are already worst off, whose jobs are the most precarious and least well paid. While the virus does not discriminate, there is a danger that it will impact disproportionately on poorer people and poorer communities, thus exacerbating existing inequalities. Continue reading

COVID-19 and the future of lifelong learning

The COVID-19 crisis obliges us to think deeply and creatively about the future of our societies and the role of education in shaping them, writes David Atchoarena

© UNESCO

Much has been said and written already about how educational institutions are responding to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically through online and distance learning. This is important and UNESCO is playing a critical role, with UIL making a significant contribution. Beyond the emergency response, it is equally necessary to reflect on the world that will emerge from the crisis and the role of lifelong learning in supporting social recovery and in shaping a sustainable future.

The crisis not only raises important technical and practical issues about the delivery of education, it also poses critical questions about the kind of society we want to live in, our approach to economic growth, our tolerance of economic and social inequalities, globally and within nations, and our relationship to nature. Continue reading

COVID-19: The case for prioritizing adult education

Since the start of the pandemic, crisis management in education has focused on children and young people, but adult education is just as critical in times of crisis, argues Daniel Baril

Credit: Pixaby

The COVID-19 pandemic is shaking our societies, and testing our capacity to act, to the limit. Each major sector of society must contribute, whether through caring for and supporting those infected, stopping the spread of the virus or ensuring the supply of essential goods and services to cloistered families. Much is demanded too of the education sector, especially given governments’ decision to close schools and other educational establishments.

Ministries of education have encouraged educational institutions to use online and distance education to ensure ‘continuity of learning. However, adult education has not yet caught the attention of governments. Public adult education services are conspicuous by their absence from the first wave of government decisions, and concern about continuity of learning for children and young people has not been extended to adults. Continue reading

Lifelong learning in dangerous times

As COVID-19 closes schools, colleges and universities around the world, it is critical that educational solutions, such as online and distance learning, do not widen the digital divide, argues Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

© UNESCO

The COVID-19 developments have urgent implications for educational institutions worldwide, and ask serious and urgent questions of education ministers, leaders, teachers and learners.

As closure notices go up outside schools and other places of formal and non-formal education, the challenge we face is how to ensure the continuity of learning through a period of unprecedented disruption.

We need to offer learners robust, innovative solutions relatively fast and to create opportunities for online teaching platforms to reach all, rather than only a small group of learners. Continue reading

Breaking through: Increasing women’s participation in ALE

Prioritizing women in ALE funding can be key in overcoming the barriers they face in participating in learning, argues Samah Shalaby

@UNESCO

Providing educational opportunities to girls and women is both a prerequisite and a driver of successful development. The fourth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 4), published in December 2019, highlighted significant global progress in women‘s participation in adult learning and education, with 59 per cent of responding countries reporting improvement since 2015.

On a regional level, however, GRALE 4 data indicate significant disparities in women’s participation in ALE. In some regions, notably the Arab States and sub-Saharan Africa, a large majority of countries (82 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively) reported an increase in the participation of women in ALE. In other parts of the world, Western Europe and North America (37 per cent), for example, progress was significantly slower, albeit from a generally higher base (see Figure 1). What then are the factors driving women’s increased participation in ALE in some regions and why does it appear to be stalling in others? Continue reading

Fostering joyful learning in Espoo

Espoo, in Finland, was one of 12 cities to receive the UNESCO Learning City Award at the second International Conference on Learning Cities in Mexico in 2015. Annica Isacsson and Annika Forstén explain what makes Espoo special

© Jussi Helimäki/Espoo
Espoo cultural centre and tower in Tapiola

In 2015, UNESCO recognized the Finnish city of Espoo for the outstanding progress it had made in implementing the ‘Key Features of Learning Cities’ since the first International Conference on Learning Cities in 2013. The Key Features describe a learning city as one that effectively mobilizes, creates and reinforces individual empowerment and social cohesion, and economic and cultural prosperity, in addition to sustainable development. In fact, the United Nations has invited Espoo to become a pioneer of sustainable development by attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.

Espoo aims to ensure that all citizens can fulfill their potential, succeed in the uncertain world of the future and participate in the development of their local communities. Learning, creativity and innovation are fostered from an early age. For example, in 2019, Tapiola Sinfonietta, the city’s orchestra, invited all expectant parents in the city to its regular concerts so that their children could experience the positive influence of music while still in the womb. And Espoo’s systematic approach to collaboration between artists and schools has been extended to early education centres, giving all children the opportunity to interact with professional artists and foster creative minds. Continue reading

Raising our voices, telling our story

While everyone agrees that adult education has major social, economic and civic benefits, it remains a marginal concern for policy-makers. How, asks Sir Alan Tuckett, can we convince governments to make policies that live up to their commitments?

© UN Photo/Christophe Herwig

Adult learning and education makes a difference. It enhances people’s dignity and strengthens civil society. It supports the development of skills for the world of today’s work and the capacity to address the challenges of rapid technological, industrial, ecological demographic change. It fosters inter-generational learning, and enriches learners’ engagement with arts, respect for diversity and difference. Studies show its positive health impact, its contribution to the resettlement of offenders, and the way it enriches later lives. Most importantly adult learning and education gives a voice to people too often silenced in the debates that shape our future. In the words of Rethinking Education, adult learning and education fosters the common good.

All this is endorsed by international conference after international conference. The International Labour Office calls for universal lifelong learning; the World Economic Forum argues that lifelong learning is of key importance in responding to the development of robotics, artificial intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) surveys of adult skills, administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are modified to recognise the breadth of learning relevant to twenty-first century work. Governments sign up to major commitments to improve literacy, to secure the right to education for women as well as girls, and to no one being left behind. Continue reading

Adult education 2.0

As preparations begin for the seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in 2022, Daniel Baril, Chair of UIL’s Governing Board, argues that we need a new generation of adult learning and education policies

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In matters of adult learning and education, we live in paradoxical times. On the one hand, learning needs are diversifying and adult education resources cover a wide spectrum of learning possibilities, formal, non-formal or informal. On the other, adult education policies strive to mobilize all available educational resources to answer different learning needs. That is why I think that a new generation of adult learning and education policies is needed, policies that would aim to draw on all educational resources to answer a wide array of learning needs.  

In my view, in our new century, two phenomena are shaping adult education. First, we are witnessing a new social demand for knowledge and competencies. In all countries, literacy and basic skills remain a major educational need and, overall, work-related training is prioritized. But, beyond those important learning domains, we can observe a wider demand stemming from many spheres of people’s daily life. In its research and normative work, UNESCO has referred to some of those growing learning needs: education for health and well-being, education for sustainable development, education for citizenship, digital skills and human rights education. The so-called twenty-first century skills are also an example of an expanding social demand for learning. Continue reading