ALE for change and a future worth living in

We will only achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if we focus more policy attention on adult learning and education. CONFINTEA VII could be a catalyst for this change, argues Rajesh Tandon

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Over the past 12 months of the pandemic, millions of citizens around the world have ‘unlearned’ old ways of being, while learning new behaviours. For rural communities in India, lockdown created greater reliance on local sources of food, water and preventive health care. For urban communities, the restrictions caused huge disruption as people’s very lives and livelihoods depend very largely on mobility, ‘out-sourcing’ and co-habitation. Millions of workers returned to their families in rural areas as employment was suddenly cut off. Many millions acquired digital hardware for the first time and learned to ‘get online’.

Families, communities and societies continue to learn new ways of being in order to navigate the changes affecting them. These new ways of being, in effect, create new changes in communities and societies. If change is inevitable and necessary for the evolution of life and community, so too is the criticality of learning to navigate change. Continue reading

The role of ALE: Our stories, our voice

Work on promoting adult learning and education is expanding and there are some encouraging signs. With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development approaching its half-way point, next year’s seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) will be a pivotal moment, writes Christiana Nikolitsa-Winter

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This week, more than 300 representatives of civil society organizations and other stakeholders met online to kick off a five-year global campaign to promote adult learning and education (ALE) and make it more visible. We are ALE’ aims to strengthen the voice of ALE and enable civil society organizations to speak with one voice in their advocacy.

It is one of a number of positive interventions aiming to move ALE up the agenda of national and international education policy. This is essential, as, across the globe, investment in ALE is shrinking and action on ALE on the decline, despite what the pandemic has taught us about its value and usefulness. In many places around the world, the great work of previous decades in building a strong ALE sector is being undone. Continue reading

The gender digital divide: Increasing women’s participation in digital learning

The move to online learning during the pandemic has disadvantaged women who typically have less access to online and digital technology than men. As the world marks International Women’s Day, Annapurna Ayyappan and Samah Shalaby reflect on how we might begin bridging this divide

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This year, International Women’s Day falls at a critical time, as the world confronts the unprecedented educational challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. To ensure learning continuity, most of the world has rapidly adopted emergency approaches, particularly through a shift to online learning. However, a large number of learners are still being left behind. While the shift to online has demonstrated the usefulness of technology in advancing learning opportunities, it has also revealed gaps in education systems, including in non-formal adult education. This post highlights one particular gap which jeopardizes equitable access to learning and the empowerment of half the world’s population – the gender digital divide.

Worldwide, women are less likely to know how to operate a smartphone, navigate the internet, use social media and understand how to safeguard information in digital media. This lack of digital skills is apparent from the lowest skill proficiency levels, such as using applications on mobile phones to the advanced skills such as coding computer software. In addition to the lack of digital skills, women are confronted with various barriers to digital access, such as affordability, social and cultural norms, financial independence, and cyber safety. This lack of access and skills is more severe among the women who are older and/or less educated than their peers, poor, or living in rural areas and developing countries. Thus, the digital skills gap intersects with, and is compounded by, issues of poverty and educational access. Continue reading

Achieving our potential: Libraries, literacy and learning throughout life

Libraries are a great resource when it comes to learning, says Stephen Wyber of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Stuttgart library, Germany

When we talk about infrastructure, we tend to think of roads, railways, cables and other physical networks crossing the landscape, enabling economic activity and growth. But the term can be extended to other areas that provide people with ways to achieve their goals, such as culture, research, and, of course, learning.

This blog looks at the last of these – the infrastructure for learning, throughout life. In particular, it considers the role of libraries both as providers of support and as partners and platforms for others, and looks at how to make the most of the unique characteristics of libraries as public, non-commercial, well-known and trusted community spaces. Continue reading

It’s time to embrace not just the lifelong but the life-wide dimension of learning

To truly achieve sustainable development, writes Norman Jackson, we must embrace, consciously and fully, our experiences and what we learn and become through them.

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Humankind has always engaged in lifelong learning, but it has meant different things at different points in time. This will always be the case. In this period of rapid transformation, contemporary society obliges people to learn and to keep on learning throughout their lives. The world is complex, hyper-connected and increasingly turbulent. It is also fragile, and cannot be sustained if we carry on using it in the way we have.

The idea that lifelong learning can be harnessed in the service of preserving our presence on this fragile planet is gaining more traction among sustainability’s strategic planners. Remedies to the myriad threats to our survival can be found in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education has its own goal – SDG 4 – which calls on countries to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ (UN, 2015). SDG 4 advocates a new role for education: to educate the world in ways that encourage behaviours that support sustainable development. Continue reading

At the tipping point: Education in the age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic could come to be seen either as an important turning point for humanity or a huge missed opportunity, a landmark in the decline of human civilization. The choice, in the end, is ours, writes Paul Stanistreet.

As the 51st World Economic Forum (WEF) meets virtually to discuss rebuilding trust, making ‘crucial’ choices and reforming systems in the context of the agenda WEF founder Klaus Schwab describes as the ‘great reset’, it is clear that we are living through times of profound change and challenge, in some respects unprecedented in human history.

And whether you welcome this for reasons of social justice and the promotion of equity and equality, or see as it a threat to entrenched systems of advantage that must be carefully, and, if necessary, coercively, managed, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a rare moment in the human story when we have an opportunity to read the map, change direction and do things differently. Continue reading

Apprentissage tout au long de la vie : le cas du Maroc

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Le virus de la COVID-19 a provoqué une crise sanitaire mondiale sans précédent accompagnée de graves secousses socio-économiques. Plus que jamais, l’éducation se retrouve au cœur de tout développement durable. La résilience des systèmes éducatifs à travers le monde est attendue tant les nouveaux défis se révèlent complexes et difficiles à relever.

L’UNESCO, qui a un rôle central à jouer, a réagi dans l’immédiateté en renforçant ses programmes éducatifs et en incitant toutes les parties prenantes à devenir plus créatives et plus agiles.

Dans cette perspective, les gouvernements se sont engagés à mettre en place des systèmes et des réformes permettant d’assurer le droit à l’éducation et de généraliser l’enseignement et la qualification pour tous. Continue reading

COVID-19: ‘This programme saved my life’

Family literacy programmes can be a lifeline for disadvantaged parents and caregivers who are struggling to support their children’s learning during the pandemic, write Anna Kaiper-Marquez and Esther Prins

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A recent New Yorker/ProPublica article chronicled the immense challenges facing children in poverty who are studying remotely during the pandemic. Shemar, a 12-year-old in Baltimore, Maryland (USA), lived with his grandmother. Having completed little schooling in then-segregated South Carolina, his grandmother was unable to get online or supervise Shemar’s online schoolwork. She is not alone: millions of caregivers – across all socio-economic strata – have struggled to monitor and guide their children’s education during the pandemic. 

What if this grandmother and other caretakers had access to family literacy programmes where they could further their own education, such as digital or print literacy, while also learning how to support their children’s education? Family literacy programmes are not a panacea to fix poverty, racism, under-funded schools, the digital divide, and other causes of educational inequalities. Yet they do have great potential to serve as a community resource and educational safety net for families like Shemar’s. Continue reading

COVID-19: Challenges and opportunities in prison education

The pandemic has exacerbated the challenges facing already over-stretched prison services around the world, but the crisis is also an opportunity to do things differently, particularly in prison education, write Marie Macauley and Lisa Krolak on International Day of Education in Prison

An inmate chooses a book from the prison library. HMP Wandsworth, London, United Kingdom.

With more than 11 million people in prison worldwide and prison populations increasing rapidly, many prisons around the world were already at crisis point, unable to provide basic services such as education, when the pandemic struck. The crisis has highlighted the challenges prisons face, but it is also providing impetus for change.

Education in prison can provide prisoners with the opportunity to learn new skills and give them a renewed sense of purpose. Research has shown that prisoners who participate in education and training programmes are less likely to return to prison. They are also more likely to find employment on release.

Most countries provide formal primary and secondary education and vocational training to prisoners free of charge. Some countries provide access to higher education, whether through distance-learning or in the prison, at the prisoners’ own expense or financed by private grants. Prison libraries also play a key role in enabling access to information and reading materials to inmates. Continue reading

COVID-19: It’s time to prioritize adult education

While adult education has been pushed further to the margins during the pandemic, its potential contribution to the creation of healthier, happier and more inclusive societies has never been clearer, argues Jamila Razzaq

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The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and learning remains to be seen. It is clear, however, that, across the world, formal systems of education have not been able to reach every learner in this crisis. Underlying structural issues in terms of priorities, roles and delivery models for education systems and services have been exposed by the crisis. Ineffectual and under-resourced mechanisms for alternative pathways to learning, inadequate connection between homes and schools, missing links between education and other social services, and under-developed practice in self-directed learning have all been highlighted in the search for viable solutions in the current situation.

In some parts of the world, learning from home through online and distance learning became the new norm during lockdown, as teaching and learning activity in physical classrooms became impossible to maintain. This shift in provision has opened up the possibility of further development and investment in alternative, non-formal and family-based learning pathways. The solutions adopted during the pandemic can be integrated into education systems to ensure learners have greater opportunities to learn through multiple pathways. Continue reading